Thursday, February 16, 2012

Get Community Support - #iPads in lieu of Textbooks

Fascinating news...with differing reactions from community members:
Fort Bend ISD is going high-tech. The school board approved an $18 million plan to replace textbooks with iPads.
Supporters say the move will help boost students’ science scores. It will also make grading papers and handing out assignments easier for teachers.
The iPads will put in second through eighth grade classrooms over the next two and a half years. (Source: FortBend News)

Note: Check the link embedded above. The reporter on that story needs to do their homework better!

"Why aren't they looking at e-readers?" Fort Bend ISD parent Jenny Bailey said.
Some though question whether that's money wisely spent, given teacher layoffs at Fort Bend ISD over the last two years.
"I don't think now is the right time to be rolling out a program that is going to cost this district at least $18 million when we're not even sure yet iPads can really improve science scores," Bailey said.
Administrations say the money spent on the program would come from bonds, grants and technology funds. As much as they might want to use this money to hire teachers, they say cannot.
"We're not able to use the funds in that way. In this economic climate, we don't anticipate being able to bring back the teachers we've lost in previous years," Stadtfeld said. (Source: ABCLocal)
There is no doubt e-readers will have a place in the classroom. But buying cutting-edge gadgets without a clear classroom connection and a proven track record is a recipe for waste.
Buying iPads for 2nd through 8th graders… $18 million. Spending that money on a gadget after cutting nearly 1,000 teaching positions… ridiculous. (Source: iWaste in Fort Bend ISD)

What's my reaction? Well, it's pretty exciting venture! I'd be jazzed up and thrilled at the possibility of putting that much technology in the hands of students and teachers, potentially a game-changer. But there are questions lingering that have to be considered and thought out...I hope they have been and that Fort Bend ISD will share their roadmap with others in Texas. 

Bill Ferriter offers some advice, although not necessarily about iPad purchases...still, good advice that serves as a starting point for any large technology initiative. He suggests we all stop a moment and ask a few questions:

1) Have you crafted technology vision statements for your school?
Have you taken the time to sit down and imagine what 'effective teaching and learning' should look like in your building? 
Could your teachers describe an imaginary classroom that perfectly aligns technology use with your other instructional priorities?  Are you making digital choices based on evidence of what your students do well and/or what your community cares the most about?
2) Have you differentiated your technology spending?
What are YOU doing to differentiate technology spending in your schools?
Are you surveying your teachers---and your students and your parents and other important stakeholder groups---about the tools that they're likely to use?
Have you asked practitioners how the budget-busting gadget that you are thinking about buying will align with the instructional practices that they believe in?
Have you set money aside for teachers who CAN make cases for tools that they'd like to use to support instruction in their classrooms
It's not bad advice to take and implement. As a friend once told me, don't implement anything unless you've made the time to chat with your stakeholders, then regroup to discuss, then put it back out there so you have community support.
I suspect that Fort Bend's answer to these two questions will determine whether this venture is a success or failure. I still recall a presentation where the tech director said they put teachers through an intensive 1 week course...then they give them $10,000 to spend any way they see fit to upgrade their classrooms.
My initial thought was, 1 week wasn't enough. My second thought was, "Wow, $10K of different stuff multiplied however many teachers. Where's the standardization and support for that level of differentiation?"
Against Bill's advice, though, it's not so ridiculous.

Get Blog Updates via Email!
Enter your email address:
Delivered by FeedBurner

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

1 comment:

EdTechSandyK said...

Interesting. I hope they've done a pilot program and proven science scores went up under the program. The original story is sparse and does not mention such an endeavor.

Having just read yesterday "The Dark Side of the iPad" ( the writer describes the difficulties of collecting work students complete on the devices and says the solutions teachers have found "are not workflows. They are obstacle courses," I wonder too about the source of the statement in the article "It will make grading papers and handing out assignments easier for teachers."

Don't get me wrong. I'm not anti-iPad or anti-getting-tech-in-students'-&-teachers'-hands. But I am anti-buying-a-bunch-of-devices-without-having-a-goal-you-know-they-will-meet. As you wrote, we can only hope there is more to the story than what KHOU wrote and Ft. Bend will share their implementation plans so the rest of us can learn from them.

The Courage to Lead