Just like kids shouldn’t be hitting chalk erasers together, teachers shouldn’t be writing on chalk boards either.
I mean, chalk is dirty, it gets everywhere and every time youhave to write on it you inevitably make that screeching noise with it. Don’t get me started with dry erase boards either, we’ll be here all day with that one.
The Obama administration feels the same way about chalk/dry erase boards. At least I hope it does, which is why the President unveiled a new project called ConnectED which plans to get more electronic devices into the hands of teachers and students so that lessons can be taught digitally. Digitization of the classroom should lead to more engaged students, have less boredom, and better prepare them to compete in a highly industrialized economy. Tests are also digitized just like the lesson plans.
Another plan by the President is to have 99% of schools to be a high speed internet within five years, which would “help teachers keep pace with changing… demands,” according to a background memo provided by the White House. This new plan comes just in time as states are beginning to adopt Common Core ideas, a new learning standard used by most states to better track student progress and get our kids up to satisfactory levels of proficiency.
The President wants "teachers to have an ability to assess learning hour by hour and day by day," a senior White House official said Wednesday. “That vision ... is really not possible with the connectivity we have today."
There are a ton of schools that already lack sufficient high speed connections to support their lesson plans. Only one-fifth of educators say they have a good enough connection even though on average schools are as well-connected as private schools.
"This is huge," said Sara Schapiro, who oversees the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools, a coalition of districts in 21 states. "At the current rate, the average Internet speed that schools have is not enough to support the assessments. ... We should deliver on the promise, a high level of connectivity that would let schools do the assessments the way they were meant to rather than printing them out."
How do we do this then?
Obama plans to use money from the Elementary and Secondary Education act to help fund professional development. School districts will be in control of their own purchasing. It’s unclear if schools will receive federal aid to purchase new learning equipment. Another source of funding for the high-speed internet and ConnectED is an expansion of the Federal Communications Commission's E-Rate program to give schools high-speed Internet and computer access. Officials estimate that over a limited period of time, ConnectED could cost an additional 40 cents per month, or 5 dollars a year, on home phone bills.
This would require that federal regulators make sure that telecom companies like AT&T teach its employees to offer school districts these rates. Pro Publica in 2012 reported "there is growing evidence that the program's crucial low-price requirement has been widely neglected by federal regulators and at least one telecom giant."
With digital learning initiatives starting to take hold, school districts are currently facing unregulated purchasing options. Voters in Idaho used a referendum on the ballot last November to stop the governor’s one-to-one computer program—because it cost $180 million. Yet, LA is planning on having 600,000 students use iPads.
Some states are also seeing parents protest because they see these new programs as infringements on student privacy.
However, districts that have adopted digital learning initiatives are seeing some return on their investment. Mooresville, N.C. has seen a jump in its graduation rate (73 to 90 percent) and an increase in proficiency (73 to 89 percent), due to a 2009 plan to give laptops to fourth graders to foster digital learning. The technology is changing the way we learn and our education system needs to change with it. After all, chalk boards are thing of the past.
Photo courtesy of http://www.theipinionsjournal.com