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EdTech Update





The $3400 piece of chalk

I recently walked by a classroom where the teacher was demonstrating how to solve an algebraic equation by writing it out and talking through the steps. On a piece of paper with a pen.

  • Under a $500 document camera
  • Connected to an $800 computer
  • Wired to a mounted $900 projector
  • Displayed on a $1200 interactive white board.

If my math skills are right, that teacher is using $3400 worth of technology to do what could be done using a piece of chalk on an existing chalkboard.

And should each of his 30 kids had $300 devices in hand taking notes? Would this be $9000 solution to a spiral ring notebook?

So what's the moral of the story, technophiles?




Why all educators should experience a root canal

Image source

I spent about 2 hours with one of these things in my mouth this afternoon.

After about a week of pain* and increasing doses of Tylenol with decreasing degrees of effect, I got in to see my dentist. A new cap on a tooth had developed an abscess - and it hurt like hell.

The root canal was something that I began to REALLY look forward to.

Now why I still think it is patently unfair that anyone who is as religious about flossing and brushing and bi annual cleanings and annual checkups and avoidance of sugared soft drinks should experience any dental problems at all, I believe everyone should all have a dental problem now and again.

The thing is I CAN have dental work done. I have a job. I have a dental plan. I have savings in the bank. I have transportation. I even have access to the Internet where I could read what was going to happen during the procedure. I knew my bad tooth was a temporary condition.

Although my family was far from rich, regular dental care was part of my childhood. And that has shaped my world view. Isn't dental care just a part of life?

For how many of our kids can we say the same thing? For how many of their parents? As our student poverty rates increase, are we as educators changing our perceptions of what it means to be growing up in today's society?

  • Where not everyone has dental care?
  • Where not everyone has parents who have dental plans?
  • Where not every family has transportation to a dentist?
  • Where a toothache may just be a part of life, not a short-lived condition that will be remedied?

I'm just saying that all of us old, middle class folks who are in education need to drink deeply from the well of empathy when working with children of poverty. Our world is not their world.

Think about it the next time you have a sore molar.

*The kind of pain that made you think Tom Hanks has the right idea in Castaway to remove his painful tooth with a rock.


BFTP: What does a good library tell you about a school?

 Your library is your portrait. - Holbrook Jackson

... children in one set of schools are educated to be governors; children in the other set of schools are trained for being governed. The former are given the imaginative range to mobilze ideas for economic growth; the latter are provided with the discipline to do the narrow tasks the first group will prescribe. - Jonathan Kozol, Savage Inequalities.

Had I any say in the decision, my grandsons would never attend a school that did not have a good library program.* You can tell a lot about a school's philosophy of education - in practice, not just in lip service - by what sort of library it supports.

A school with a good library:

  1. Believes that education is about teaching kids how to ask and answer questions, not just know the "right" answers.
  2. Believes that asking questions is a sign of intelligence, not stupidity.
  3. Believes that kids should have access to a diversity of topics and points-of-view and be taught the skills to make informed opinions of their own.
  4. Believes that kids' personal interests are legitimate areas of investigation.
  5. Believes that it is as important to create kids who want to read as to simply create kids who can read.
  6. Believes that access to good fiction collections helps kids meet developmental tasks and reading fiction can foster empathy.
  7. Believes that kids should be content creators and content sharers as well as content consumers.
  8. Believes that it is important to have more research skills than simply being able to Google a topic - and that it is important to have a professional who helps kids master those skills.
  9. Believes that edited, quality commercial sources of information should be available to all kids regardless of economic level.
  10. Believes that technology use in education is about creativity, problem-solving, and communications.
  11. Believes that the classroom is not the only place learning occurs.
  12. Believes that kids, like adults, sometimes need a "third place" where they feel welcome, comfortable and productive.

It's in times of budget cuts that a school's true values come starkly into focus. Libraries are a visible sign that a school is educating governors, not the governed.

Which kind of school do you want your grandchildren to attend? With what kind of school do you wish to be affiliated as an educator?

What does your library reveal about your school?

* Good = proactive professional and support staff, adequate materials, articulated curriculum, pleasant physical plant, up-to-date technology.


Original post January 24, 2010
This post was reincarnated in an expanded verions as a Head for the Edge column you can find here.