Clearing the Cache - Education
Last Thursday, started writing a blog post to clear the cache of many different emails that needed responding to. I posted the first half and planned on posting the second a little later. Then my computer crashed and I lost my draft. So, I’m redoing it with a little additional information.
First, I should note that Tony Mena, whom I mentioned in that post and did a Music Monday review of last week has won an award for the poem I highlighted. Please, go check it out. We had to reschedule his appearance on Fiona’s Radio Show. We are talking about rescheduling the show for mid-December.
The big education news out of last week was the New Haven Promise, a plan to make college tuition available to all high performing New Haven Residents. This raises an interesting question. How do we make sure that students succeed? When I wrote about this, I mentioned the Citywide Youth Coalition. They will be getting together with people from Our New Haven at The Grove on Wednesday at 6 PM to talk about how people can work together in New Haven to help the schools and students be more successful.
Meanwhile, there is plenty to talk about in terms of education in Woodbridge. Last week, the Beecher Road School PTO and the Woodbridge Board of Education both had meetings in which James Crawford spoke about improvements to the school’s website. At the PTO meeting Penny Zamkov also spoke about the PTO website.
I have been a long time critic of how technology is used at Beecher Road. Back in 2008, I served on a committee to draft a three-year technology plan for the school. The committee did good work, with a key area of concern being around the use of the school website to improve communications. Mr. Crawford has been doing a good job with this, and I look forward to some of the additional improvements expected later in the school year.
However, the Board of Education meeting provided a good insight into some of the difficulties that the technology team faces. These difficulties are school policies and the views of some of the members of the board.
The most striking was when a board member spoke about not wanting the school to be an early adopter of education technology. This was during the discussion where plans to start introducing Web 2.0 tools to students was being explained.
The term Web 2.0 was coined in 1999 and popularized in 2003 and 2004 and includes ideas like blogs, wikis, and social networking sites. My nine year old daughter has been using web 2.0 sites for over two years, including some designed specifically to protect the privacy of children and yet she is not likely to get the opportunity to use such sites as part of her school work for at least another year.
This is further complicated by current policies that significantly restrict what sort of student material can be placed online. The parents that I speak seek ways of circumventing this policy through their personal home accounts. The policies need to be reviewed and rewritten. Fortunately, like the work being done on improving the school’s website, the technology team is starting to address this as well.
A bigger concern by some board members appears to be around introducing digital readers. At the 2009 Digiday:APPs conference, Teaque Lenahan, an Associate Partner, at Gravitytank presented the results of some of their research into mobile devices including a comment from a school principal suggesting giving kids iPhones instead of text books. It seems clear in that this is the direction educational materials are moving.
One of the other education emails I received last week fits nicely into this. Dr. Michael Mayrath, President and CEO of GetYa Learn On sent an email about updates to their applications. I wrote about some of Dr. Mayrath’s work last year in Statistics Education Application for the iPhone.
Dr. Mayarth has his PhD in Educational Psychology and their director of Research and Development, is finishing up her doctorate in Educational Psychology as well. Dr. Mayarth did post-doc work at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education on Virtual Performance Assessment
Most of GetYaLearnOn’s work has been focused on secondary and post-secondary education, however there is great potential for this in elementary education as well. In personal correspondence, he noted that is not much research available on mobile learning in K-6 yet, but did point to an interesting article from Harvard's Graduate School of Education, Augmented Reality Technology Brings Learning to Life. This is on my list of articles to read more closely, but it starts off with
When middle school students describe something they did in school as "cool," "exciting," and "fun," educators who are more accustomed to hearing "Why are we learning this?" tend to sit up and take notice.
Personally, it seems like digital readers would be a great fit with the readers and writers workshops that Beecher Road School does in conjunction with The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University. An ereader app that assesses students progress to help them find “just right” books, develop spelling word lists and share their reading experiences would seem to bring a great boon, especially if it results in students sharing how exciting reading can be.
While some board members may not want Beecher Road to be a leader in education, I would like it to be and hope that the school can find further ways to partner with Columbia as well as application developers to help push education forward in the twenty first century.
There is so much more that I need to write about to clear my cache, but this should be enough for now.