Summary of some of the ideas and beliefs made by the Administration at the December 10, 2012 Board Meeting.
Students learn best under the guidance of highly trained teachers who must be supported with tools and resources. Today those tools include technology such as personal, electronic devices. Putting those tools in the hands of students can act as an equalizer providing access to information and empowering them as learners. Such tools can also increase student engagement in learning and and interest in school. We must inspire and motivate students to be continuous learners. As a result we will ensure our students are problem solvers, critical thinkers, collaborators, and communicators. We want every student in Rock Hill Schools to have a mobile learning device for use at school and home.
Below are my own beliefs and ideas. (As always this is not necessarily the Board position):
I agree that learning is most successful under the guidance of a teacher highly trained in curriculum and current best practices. I would also include the need for a strong principal with a vision focused on academic progress who supports teachers with lots of encouragement, formal and informal staff development, and regular opportunities for teachers to collaborate and problem solve. I think these two groups are the ones who, through their determination and caring, create successful learning environments in schools where students succeed.
In reading the total Administration presentation I counted ten uses of the word “engagement” in describing iRock. Yes, we want students to be engaged in learning.
However, I found that success in school is the most engaging motivator. Students must feel mastery and success or they give up.
This is the base reason why the prevention of early school failure is of such critical importance. If children fail to be successful in their first school experiences and so quit trying they may never succeed. By late elementary hiding failure from peers can overwhelm efforts to overcome ever-increasing discrepancies.
At a School Board Retreat on November 30, 2012 the Board set priorities for Rock Hill 3. By strong agreement the Board said that our highest priority is to “address and improve academic and other performance indicators such as test scores, graduation rate, and the achievement gap.” In the Administration proposal for IRock on December 10, 2012 there were no specifics on how iPads will help to increase the academic achievement of our students. Until we have a plan that is focused on academic goals I cannot support this proposal.
In a recent national Webinar on digital technology for public schools, presenters stressed the prime importance of academic goals determining the use of digital devices. The Administration speaker to the Board on Dec. 10 said that academic progress goals are assumed. Goals of prime importance are not assumed but stated and planned for in detail. They must be included in the RH3 plan.
We are inexorably moving to 1-to-1 digital devices. I feel fortunate to still be around during this exciting time in education. We are moving so fast that every time I log in to my favorite education sites I find some new, previously unknown to me innovation, device, or process being described. Such change is inevitable, desirable and necessary to safeguard our children’s education. However, providing personal iPads, laptops, etc. will not, in themselves, improve learning.
The cataclysmic change that personal computers make possible is the personalizing of instruction. With personal computers, on-line instruction, and assessments specific to each child’s individual-learning rate, teachers can tailor instruction student by student. But this will happen because of teachers, not just because of an iPad – although computers make it possible.
Most training session schedules I have looked at and/or attended have been Apple-device specific. While instructions in how to use computer programs are helpful, teachers will need more than these training sessions to achieve successful change. Teachers working together to share ideas and learning solutions for students can bring about academic improvement. In our late-start work days, common planning periods, etc., we must include time to share successes, failures, and to collaborate and plan by same grade, same subject teachers for this new way of teaching.
I agree that our students will be required to be ”problem solvers, critical thinkers, collaborators, communicators.” Again, providing each child an iPad will not automatically result in this outcome. These are still skills that must be taught. Type in any of the above terms on the web and look at the pages of articles aimed at helping teachers teach these skills to students. Fifteen years ago, before our students could benefit from cooperative learning strategies, we had to teach them the skills. Again, we need more specifics on how professional development and support will be provided teachers relevant to improving achievement with iPads, not just how to use iPad applications.
Finally, the Administration continues to develop plans for funding. The latest proposal is that we will lease iPads and provide them to students for $85 with insurance for loss and damage available. This is progress for our parents. I heard from a few parents whose concerns, prior to the leasing proposal, centered on cost. Parents are also understandably worried about the fragility and security of the devices. At a recent parent meeting at Sunset Park parents had the chance to work with iPads and hear how the teacher presenters had dealt with the security issues in their own classrooms. I hope we will continue offering these meeting to parents and other parts of our community. They are helpful.
One of the most successful school districts in the adoption and use of computers (laptops) is Mooresville, NC. The superintendent there is Mark Edwards whose comments below cite the reasons for their success. One key statement: “Building a culture where adult learning is the norm is vitally important to our digital conversion. Our focus on individual and team skill development in using digital content and data is at the heart of our impressive student learning gains.” You can see more of his thoughts here (at http://www.aasa.org/content.aspx?id=21680)