Welcome To The Future?

Source: Mooresville School District, a Laptop Success Story – NYTimes.com.

The district’s graduation rate was 91 percent in 2011, up from 80 percent in 2008. On state tests in reading, math and science, an average of 88 percent of students across grades and subjects met proficiency standards, compared with 73 percent three years ago. Attendance is up, dropouts are down. Mooresville ranks 100th out of 115 districts in North Carolina in terms of dollars spent per student — $7,415.89 a year — but it is now third in test scores and second in graduation rates.

I know change is difficult for all, especially us seniors sometimes. So, to read this article and learn that students are learning from applications on their MacBook Airs in addition to a live teacher can be very disconcerting. But as a retired information technology engineer I can understand why it works. The internet has opened up the information superhighway to just about anyone with a connection. There is almost nothing that we can’t start learning with just a few keystrokes. What used to take hours researching in a twenty four volume encyclopedia now takes seconds with a keyboard.

One of the main advantages of this type of process is that each student can learn at their own pace.  I can still remember my grade school days (yeah even that  long ago 🙂 ) when I would get quite bored because the teacher had to go through the same lesson several times in order to make sure every kid in the class understand. I was an impatient kid, something I have never grown out of I guess, so sitting there with nothing to stimulate me drove me to boredom beyond my imagination. Wouldn’t it have been great if I could have, on my own, moved on to the next lesson. I think I would have gotten much more out of the classroom time.

But, just like everything else involving change, especially paradigm change as this story approaches,  it will be resisted quite adamantly by some in the educational community. Change just comes harder for some than for others. Of course there will always be lessons that must be learned that can’t be put on a computer screen. Those lessons will continue to require a passionate well informed mentor teacher. But the daily grind stuff that students can learn at their own pace is better done by other methods.

So many kids today are much more fluent in this sort of thing than their parents ever dreamed. I think the parents and especially grand-parents will have a harder time accepting this new way of learning than the kids ever will. According to the article the kids at Mooresville take it in stride.

4 comments

  1. You are so right, R.J. I worked as clerk for 22 years in an Elementary school Media Center which included the library and computer labs. Our school went from having 2 SE’s to having hundreds of desktop and laptop Macs. Teachers were somewhat resistant in the beginning, but they learned, and as the younger teachers take over it’s so much better. The benefits of the technology integrated curriculum are many. Teacher presentations use projectors and Smart Boards. Second language instruction for instance is greatly enhanced, Special Ed students blossom when they sit down to a computer, even PHY ED has programs to use for exercise and skills, not to mention some great music instruction. Students are visibly stimulated by the computer. Research units are no longer limited to a couple books and encyclopedias which are so quickly outdated. As a book lover this is sometimes hard to see, and it’s hard to see funding diverted from library books to technology, but the times they are a’changing and much of it is for the better.
    If only all this technology wasn’t so darned expensive!

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  2. Smart boards are just another tool for lecture- in the dark. I don’t think most schools use computers effectively. Teachers desire to be the holders of wisdom. As schools begin to see that students can gain a great deal more from directed computer work, teachers will have fewer disruptions from bored students. Teachers will move to mentors and directors rather than “sage on the stage”. I think we probably have about ten years. It may be longer if communities continue to take money away from schools.
    I taught for twenty years.
    Great article.

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    • Jan, you are right when you say many schools don’t use computers effectively. Some are great and some are probably lousy. Every district is different. I can only speak from my own experience at an elementary level and in a district considered very “advanced” in it’s use. A lot of time and $$ were spent here training staff in the effective use of the many technologies. At all times the idea was to “integrate” the technology, not to relinquish live teaching to a computer, tho. As far as test scores and achievement … to my knowledge it still has a ways to go to prove it’s worth. So, yeah, maybe 10 years like you said.
      I do have a problem with the tremendous expense requiring referendums every 5 years or so to keep “updating” the stuff. Can we keep doing this forever? I don’t know.

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  3. Listening to you two gives me a lot of insight into this area. You both seem to have a lot of wisdom in this area so thanks for your input. As I said I was an information technology guy who implemented this type of thing in a research and development lab. So, in a way I also taught kids (many with masters and doctors degrees 🙂 ). Teaching the teacher is probably the critical path in this process. If they are not enthusiastic about it then it will not be successful. And teachers should be enthusiastic because it takes the grind out of teaching and leaves them to do the more rewarding activities. Thanks again.

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