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EdTech Update





Technology enhanced schools

I've been in a bad mood lately. Since analyzing and writing about our district's technology successes and failures (Looking Back), reading various diatribes like David Warlick's Letter from a Principal, and experiencing some Seasonal Affective Disorder, I'm been in a real funk. But there is nothing like a little warm weather and request by the PR Department to pull one's socks and spirits up a little!

One thing I have always liked about working in the Mankato Schools is the feeling that I'm working for some damn smart people. The board and the superintendent always seem one step ahead of the curve. ( No, I'm not sucking up - I don't think anyone in Mankato reads this. Prophet without honor and all that.)

Hiring a PR Director a few years ago was a sign of those smarts.

Like it or not, education is a competitive business. As a parent living in Mankato, I have more places to send my children to school than I have of fast food restaurants. Other schools in our district, other schools in our area (open enrollment is state law in Minnesota), charter schools, great parochial schools, home schooling (no thank you), or online schools are all options I have for my kids. So when new folks move into our community, we want to make sure they make the right choice: enrolling kids in ISD77. Our board/administration figured this out long ago, so we share a very good PR department that we share with the City of Mankato. We do blow our own horn. We must if we are to attract students and the dollars that come with them. Period.

 Shelly, the PR Director, called the other day. She is revising our district's parental information booklet. "I think good technology would be a great draw to parents," says she. "I agree," says I. So below is a list of all the good tech stuff your children would benefit from should you, as a conscientious parent, send them to our schools:




Mankato Area Public Schools are technology enhanced!
Mankato Area Public School students:
  1. Have ready access to up-to-date computers in library media centers, computer labs and classrooms in all buildings. Computers are a on a 5-year replacement cycle.
  2. Have access to state-of-the-art computer technologies in the business and technology education departments.
  3. Are taught an articulated set computer and information literacy skills grades K-12 in both library and classroom units.
  4. Have district-provided e-mail accounts and online file storage for their personal work.
  5. Have access to a wireless Internet connection within all buildings so they can use their personal computing devices.
  6. Have access to the software and equipment needed to create multi-media projects – digital cameras, scanners, and video editing software.
  7. Have both home and school access to a full set of online resources including magazine databases, encyclopedias, and video libraries. All schools are connected by reliable computer networks with fast connections to the Internet. Access to the Internet is filtered to meet the Children’s Internet Protection Act law.
  8. Have access to excellent print and non-print resources in modern library media centers in every school. (Our school libraries were finalists for American Association of School Libraries National Library Program of the Year Award, 1999.)
  9. Have access to the services and guidance of qualified, professional library media specialists.
  10. Have classroom teachers who receive regular training in and updating of technology skills, and has a classroom computer for his/her use.
  11. Have classroom teachers that have precise, useful data for each child in his/her classroom.
Mankato Area Public School parents:
  1. Have online access to student information  - grades, assignments, health information, attendance – for all their secondary students. May request that a report of a failing grade, missed assignment, or unexcused absence be automatically e-mailed to them.
  2. Can contact teachers readily. Mankato teachers all have e-mail addresses, telephones in the their classrooms, and voice mail. Most have webpages.
  3. Can use the district website to access district calendars, events schedules, hot lunch menus, personnel contacts and other information.
  4. May use the website to make payments or purchases with the district electronically.
  5. Have the opportunity to serve on the District Technology Advisory Committee.
So maybe it's not as bad as I thought. The old definition of PR is the ability to make chicken salad out of chicken shit. But not one of the things listed above is a fabrication. I am not sure how many other districts can make these claims. Could be worse.


What would be YOUR district's pitch to parents in regard to technology and libraries? Are you making your district more or less attractive to parents?  



Citing a great paper, "Tech-savvy students stuck in text-dominated schools; A summary of available research on student attitudes, perceptions, and behavior by Kim Farris-Berg, University of Minnesota professor Scott McLeod wonders: “…in their current state, schools today may actually be harming digitally-literate students, not just ignoring them.” In a response to David Warlick's powerful letter to parents citing "his" school's failure to educate their children with 21st century skills, David Jakes responds as the parent of a very high performing student who is concerned his child won't have the skills it take to do well at the university he plans to attend. (I don't agree with his conclusion that the principal is primarily the one responsible for his school not employing technology fully, however.)

Are we failing our high performing/tech-savvy students by not providing a technology-rich learning school environment? While much thought and effort has gone into closing the digital divide - helping to make sure students from challenging socio-economic backgrounds have access to technology -  are we concerned enough about the tech-saavy kids who may also be underserved by under-powered schools?

Levine, McLeod, and Jakes allude to a number of ways students in tech rich homes are at a disadvantage in tech poor schools including

 I'd add another serious concern - that "school" for these kids lacks relevance. I hate to think our best and brightest are simply tuning out, assuming schools and teachers have little to offer them since they can't/don't use the students' own communication methods.


Significant day

Sent to me this morning by a friend who has retired to Spain. Sorry, couldn't resist sharing it...

This year, both Groundhog Day and the State of the Union Address fall on the same day. 

As Air America Radio pointed out, "It is an ironic juxtaposition: one involves a meaningless ritual in which we look to a creature of little intelligence for prognostication, and the other involves a groundhog."