RANT - Obama Cuts Ed-Tech Funding

Wes Fryer asked me earlier, You didn't comment or editorialize on this press release, Miguel. What are your thoughts / opinions here? The truth of the matter is, Who really cares anymore except companies that suffer from school's loss of funding?

When you balance the fact that people are losing their jobs left and right, losing their homes, against the point that K-12 schools in the United States won't have money to install high tech computer labs that:
  1. Don't get used to their full potential because the teachers--including the "computer teachers"--don't bother to learn the software and/or help students learn it.
  2. Involve school districts blowing $500K or more on initiatives like [fill in the blank with your favorite Integrated Learning System] that have a negligible impact on student achievement.
  3. Technology funds get DIVERTED BY THE SUPERINTENDENT--did you know NCLB Title 2 Part D funds can get diverted by the Superintendent of K-12 school districts? It's in there--anyways so that what is actually spent in schools ends up going to money-hungry vendors who provide what administrators who could care less about stepping out of their comfort zone think they need to have.
  4. No requirement that Curriculum and Instruction departments actually LEARN how technology can be used except as a drill-n-practice tool behaviorism approaches left over from 20+ years ago.
You know, those reasons are enough to make the point. When you consider how much money is wasted on "technology initiatives," including poorly constructed assessments like the School Technology and Readiness (STaR) Chart. Consider Jamie McKenzie (From Now On):

Yet despite significant spending on technology (estimated at $5.6 billion in 2001-2002), teachers' skills in integrating technology into classroom instruction languishes.

While we have no reliable evidence that one-to-one computing translates into improved student learning results, the Star Chart lists the following benefits claimed for a "Target Tech" school that has one computer per student:

  • Improve student achievement
  • Develop and support the full range of 21st century skills that students will need to thrive in today’s educational environment and tomorrow’s workplace
  • Promote student-centered authentic project-based learning
  • All students/teachers able to communicate with parents, experts, community members and teachers outside the school
  • Learning at home and at school occurs seamlessly

Source: The CEO Forum on Education & Technology

Fascinating. No, I am rapidly approaching the point of being "justifiably jaded." That spot is the one you reach when you know people have had the opportunity to change and chosen not to. It's part of being human--and so is, I think, being jaded--to not realize change until it's too late or impossible.

So, yes, if technology continues to be irrelevant to teaching, then cut it out. Excise funding on technology from the budget. If you're not going to make it a requirement, if you're not going to fire superintendents who dance around using technology except to put it in so that it looks like something is happening, if you're not going to require teachers to learn how to use it and CHANGE their teaching, if you're not going to transform curriculum specialists and how they work, then it's a waste of money.

The best part about it is, as the technology (e.g. netbooks) get cheaper, it means a less significant investment for schools. We should switch to free, open source software, buy the least expensive hardware, and not buy anything fancy or complicated until an educator proves themselves.

Superintendent: "Have you learned how to publish slideshow presentations to the Web instead of having your secretary do it? Do you respond to blogs? Wait...that's beneath you and you're going to let your secretary do it? Well, you should get a boat anchor desktop computer until you show me you can wield it with skill."

Curriculum Specialist: "Have you learned how to model differentiation of instruction for adult learners, as well as students in face to face and online professional learning environments? How are you using communication and collaboration technologies to engage your learners in conversations? How are you modeling that so that teachers will know how to achieve curricular objectives through the strategic application of technology that goes beyond "go to the web and do research?"

What would you write for expectations for principals and teachers? What? We already have those in the ISTE's NETS? Well, what good are they then? Who's actually doing anything with them?

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MamaEstes said…
Preach it, brother! Can I get an AMEN?
paulalex said…
I feel your pain. I am struggling just to get an Instructional Technology Department put in place in my district. We had only 7 out of over 700 students pass a Technology Literacy Assessment last year and despite these numbers my district is not willing to put in place the people to teach teachers and administrators how to integrate technology. Yet they spend millions on buying PCs and laptops for teachers and students who have no clue on how to integrate this technology into their curriculum!
Wesley Fryer said…
I share your concerns, Miguel, and wrote a bit about this today on ISTEconnects. It's not a popular position, perhaps, but one that is warranted. If we're not interested in really transforming schools, why should we waste money on programs that are just going to preserve the status quo?

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