What’s all this talk about technology at school? There is no doubt that when you start talking about large-scale technology purchases it gets people’s attention. How can we afford this? How will it change instruction? What happens if it breaks? What is the right technology tool to buy? How do you create control and protections? When would this happen?
But before we can sift through all of those questions, we first ask – why would we purchase so much new technology, maybe even a computer for every student? First, and foremost, we have to consider that technology purchases are not just about technology. We can’t talk about technology without focusing the conversation on what we want education to look like. We have to talk about the gap between what education looks like and what it could or should look like.
Let’s be clear – this statement does not mean that the outstanding educators in Iowa need to be ‘fixed.’ Rather, it is the system of education as a whole that needs our attention. We are working with a system that was designed in the 1890s. And it is a system that was appropriately designed to meet the demands of the times. It is fair to say that it is not a bad system, but it just no longer fits the demands of the times. The good news is that we have the right people already here to do the work, and as you may remember from some of my previous writing, the work is to constantly challenge status quo. Students today need unique learning situations, real-world problem solving opportunities, and community based activities, all of which result in graduates that are college and career ready. Can we do that without technology? Probably, but the world for which we are preparing them is not without technology. For the most part, educators are ready to take on status quo. Certainly they are qualified and capable. They just need the right tools and the time to make it happen.
The rest of the questions about large-scale technology purchases must be dealt with systematically. We want to do our best to be sure we work through all of the questions that parents, teachers, students, or community members might have. For many, once we start to understand why we would move in this direction, the next question will be how we might afford to do so. Many more details will follow once we hone in on what specific technology tools we would choose, but for now we want to be very open with the idea that there could be considerable expense. I would ask you to consider it this way – if you opened any locker of an Alburnett high school student, you would find textbooks valued at no less than today’s cost of a laptop computer. The difference, when compared this way, is that we have not traditionally purchased all new textbooks for all students at the same time. So for the present conversation, we have begun to share projections with our school board on how we could make a large-scale technology purchase without increasing any taxes or postponing any progress we plan to make with continuing to maintain and update our facilities and transportation fleet. And we must be mindful of not jeopardizing the gradual progress we are making in restoring the health of our General Operating Fund.
I would be more than willing to review this information with any of you if you could make the time. I would love to visit with you individually, or if you have a small group that might want to make time to visit, please do not hesitate to let me know.
Finally, you might wonder when these preliminary conversations will become more concrete. Planning takes time, but we also have to remember that decisions such as these cannot be put off. Each year that we do not take action, another group of students passes through our system. Will it happen during the 2012-13 school year? No. Could we be ready to show you plans for the 2013-14 school year in the near future? Yes. The bottom line is that we want to talk with you about these plans. We need to know what you wonder and how you feel about moving in this direction. Please don’t hesitate to call, email, or stop by the school.