Skip to content

Digital Learning Inventory

Our school has a two class sets of iPads, a class set of MacBooks, and a class set of Dell laptops available in the media center. There are also four labs of Dell computers dedicated to technology classes. There is also a lab in the media center used for media production classes (video, newspaper, yearbook), but the Macintoshes are old and quite slow, especially when running the Adobe Creative Suite needed for professional media production. We are trying to fill the gap with about dozen laptops (which share four chargers), and I am told there are computers on order for that lab.

Every classroom has a projection system that can be connected to our laptops, and often those projectors are linked to interactive whiteboard systems like Smart Boards, Promethean Boards, and Mimio.

Many teachers set up free webpages through WordPress (my teacher webpage is drshipe.wordpress.com); some pay for webpages through TeacherWeb. However, our school website does not provide links to teacher websites on its faculty page. I’m not sure if this is due to a policy of our district’s Educational Technology Services (in practice the name is an oxymoronic inside joke like “jumbo shrimp” or “military intelligence”) or to the improbability of adding those links being cross off our tech specialist’s Hydra-like to-do list.

Our district has set up a license for Edmodo, so we have our own domain (broward.edmodo.com). Last year, 43 out of 50 teachers are connecting with each other through that service. Several teachers have created blended classrooms in which lectures and curriculum are available as podcasts on their websites.

I’m using Edmodo more and more as a means of communication, scheduling, and submitting assignments. I’m finding students give less and less authority to a person with a piece of paper than they do to something on a screen. Few students keep written agenda books and write down homework. At the end of my AP classes, students will crowd around the board at the front to photograph the homework assignment written there. (Old-fashioned fellow that I am, I wonder if something gets lost bypassing the cognitive process of writing something down, but to these kids, my intellect lumbers like a giant dinosaur down the information highway.)

I hesitate to list unblocked educational and communication websites here because our district’s ETS is notoriously draconian about restricting internet access. I once tried to access the local newspaper’s publication/website designed by and for high school students, and was blocked by the district server. If you’re accessing this site from my district, you will not be able to watch my blog post with Malala Yousafzai’s inspiring, pro-education address to the United Nations (it’s on YouTube, which my district blocks). But—at this moment—here are sites available in my district:

Skype: http://www.skype.com
iEarn: http://www.iearn.org
Connect All Schools: http://www.connectallschools.org
Peace Corps Speakers Match:   http://wws.peacecorps.gov/wws/speakersmatch/
ePals:  http://www.epals.com
Global Nomads Group: www.gng.org
Omprakash:  http://www.omprakash.org
Primary Source: www.primarysource.org
Edutopia:  http://www.edutopia.org
Outreach World: http://www.outreachworld.org
The UN Works: http://www.un.org/works/
Global Education Conference: http://www.globaleducationconference.com
Online Newspapers: http://www.onlinenewspapers.com

I can’t say how many teachers use these links regularly, if at all. Please comment if you are using any of these! Our French teacher is using http://www.tv5.org for current news in French. I am working on ePals connections between my TGC host teacher in Jorhat, India, because the time difference makes Skype impractical. My school is primarily focused on Edmodo, and I am told even that has required some pushing and pulling of district higher-ups and lower-downs like me, faced with scarce time and materials to try new things (and lower-downs not like me who are unwilling to try new things).

Students are generally technologically proficient, although the main use of technology they see is for entertainment rather than critical thinking. All students have to take a course in introductory computer use focusing on Word, Excel, PowerPoint. Informal discussions among teachers across the curriculum reveal some dissatisfaction with kids’ abilities after taking those courses though. It seems like teachers of that course have had the highest turnover at our school. Several of my newspaper students have certificates in Adobe Photoshop and Dreamweaver, but only a few can be relied on to use those programs to produce something publishable.

I’m trying to get certification in Photoshop and Dreamweaver, but I have to do it on my own. I’ve asked our technology teachers about how I can get certified through district workshops, but they told me those workshops are available only to those teaching technology courses. I’ve also inquired about getting my journalism students certified in InDesign, but I was told because the class is not a technology class, no certification could be offered.

A good solution has been some journalism students have offered to step up and do one-day mini-workshops for the class on technological topics. It works well because the presenters have taken the time to master some aspect of technology, and other competent students can offer one-on-one or small-group help.

Outside of the media lab, there seems to be a lot of technology-related equipment at our school. The issue is do teachers have enough support to use those tools effectively. We have one very overworked tech specialist, and that’s not enough to fix all the equipment and meet the daily technological needs of administration. We also need more planning time to learn and work together on implementing these tools. From my experience, technology is usually a catch-as-can kind of thing—if a teacher can figure something out on his/her own, that’s great. But—until we got Edmodo this year—there isn’t much technology that is supported and implemented across the board.

It’s hard to think of changes that won’t cost anything, whether in money or policy changes. I wouldn’t mind seeing a handful of teachers given an extra planning period to serve as tech support specifically to their departments, but that would require hiring an extra teacher for the lost instruction, and I don’t know if our district-union contract allows principals such flexibility. Years ago, select students served as a specialized set of office aides called The Tech Team. When staff had issues with technology, a student from The Tech Team was usually there the same day—if not even the same period—to help with the problem. I have yet to receive a clear explanation of why we don’t do that anymore; I think it’s something about laws or policies requiring that a student be assigned to a “class” with a certified teacher, and due to budget cuts, no one can afford a certified teacher not in old-fashioned, brick-and-mortar classes with at least 25 students in them.

(If you’re reading this in India, you might be laughing at us now, so let me explain your laughter to U. S. readers. In India, if a teacher doesn’t show up that day, the kids just sit in the room unsupervised and wait for an off-duty teacher to wander in—which doesn’t regularly happen. In the U. S., the idea of unsupervised children is horrific, and that supervision can only be entrusted to someone with a license and a college degree, who is then paradoxically paid about one-third the salary of a petroleum engineer and given the respect that a prodigal lottery winner would give to the busboy who empties his ashtray.)

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: