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Ask Slashdot: Why Aren't Schools Connected? 568

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the because-blackboard-will-break-your-knees dept.
rtobyr writes "We use the Internet — E-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and blogs to communicate with colleagues, friends, and family. When I was in Iraq with the Marine Corps, we used e-mail (secured with encryption and stuff, but e-mail nonetheless) to communicate the commanding officer's order that a combat mission should be carried out. My third grade daughter produces her own YouTube videos, and can create public servers for her games with virtual private network technology. Yet here I am trusting a third grade girl to deliver memos to me about her educational requirements in an age in which I can't remember the last time I used paper. Teachers could have distribution lists of the parents. The kids' homework is printed. Therefore, it must have started as a computer file (I hope they're not still using mimeograph machines). Teachers could e-mail a summary of what's going on, and attach the homework files along with other notices about field trips or conferences that parents should be aware of. Teachers could have an easy way to post all these files to the Internet on blogs. With RSS, parents could subscribe to receive everything that teachers put online. If teachers want to add to the blog their own personal comments about how the school year is going, then all the parents would see that also, and perhaps have the opportunity to comment on the blog. It seems to me that with the right processes, the cost and additional workload would be insignificant. For example, instead of developing a syllabus in MS Word, use Wordpress. Have schools simply not paid attention to the past decade of technology, or is there a reason that these things aren't in place?" It seems odd that primary schools in at least the U.S. don't use technology to communicate with students much. My younger sister went to a private school that made reasonable use of Blackboard, but that seems to be the exception.
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Ask Slashdot: Why Aren't Schools Connected?

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  • Poor people exist (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 02, 2012 @06:05PM (#39554061)

    "Have schools simply not paid attention to the past decade of technology, or is there a reason that these things aren't in place?"

    Poor people exist. And attend school. And there's an odd notion that we shouldn't make things even more unfair for them than they already are.

    • by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Monday April 02, 2012 @06:08PM (#39554107) Homepage Journal

      A computer capable of e-mail, web, and dialup access can be had second hand for $15. I think we ought to be able to contract with local e-waste recycling companies and give these away.

      • by rjstanford (69735) on Monday April 02, 2012 @06:10PM (#39554135) Homepage Journal

        And access would cost another $20/month in a world where (gasp!) many kids are going to school without breakfast and are relying on the school district to provide them with lunch, since their parents simply can't afford it.

        Those people are, however, notoriously underrepresented on slashdot.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Rifter13 (773076)

          I understand that. I see it at my daughter's school, unfortunately. What really sucks, though, is that my daughter's education is drug down because of that. Equality is all fine and dandy, until you realize that your own child doesn't get what she needs, because she excels... and I don't have the money to move her to private. :-(

          • by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Monday April 02, 2012 @06:30PM (#39554405)

            Which obviously ignores the fact that people were capable of getting excellent educations for thousands of years without any of this electronic gadgetry.

            Perhaps you could fill the gaps? Shocking, I know...

            • by xzvf (924443) on Monday April 02, 2012 @07:24PM (#39554929)
              In most cases education has used technology as a theater exercise. The only important part is taking a picture of a student using said technology with a attentive and concerned educator looking on. At best technology is used to replace existing tools on a one to one basis. Smart board for blackboard, tablet for textbook, laptop for notebook, etc.... The goal should be to do what every other company has done with technology and become more productive. Teachers should be able to use technology to teach 50-60 students at a time, all with individualized instruction.
              • by tqk (413719) <s.keeling@mail.com> on Monday April 02, 2012 @10:29PM (#39556105)

                Teachers should be able to use technology to teach 50-60 students at a time, all with individualized instruction.

                My sister's an elementary school teacher. She can use tech. She's not the bottleneck.

                The bottleneck is the school board and the teachers' union. She's been begging the school board all year to get software she wants to use. It finally showed up last week, in March.

                Report Cards *could* be damnably simple; radio buttons on a couple of web pages, with a few text boxes thrown in for detail. Instead, it's all done by hand just as it was done 150 years ago, because everybody else thinks it's alright as it is and it doesn't need to be changed. My sister spends close to a month doing report cards, then re-doing the ones the principal sends back.

                Add in all the PC !@#$ that teachers have to look out for these days (they don't even want to mention "Christmas" now that there's rampant multi-cult sensitivities to consider). God help her if she gets a "slow" kid whose parents refuse to believe is slow. "MY PRECIOUS SNOWFLAKE IS NOT SLOW, DAMNIT!"

                School IT is close to the bottom of the barrel, right next to lawyers' and doctors' IT. School, though, has the added encumbrance of school board bureacracy and a teachers union in the mix.

                Hell at the temperature of the Sun's corona.

                • by Moryath (553296) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @12:06AM (#39556579)

                  Blaming the teachers' unions proves you are a fucking retard who listens to too much Rush Limbaugh.

                  Where you should blame are the fucking Retardicans who demand to have a first-rate educational system while not wanting to pay a fucking dime of taxes to support it.

                  You want to know why school IT is "bottom of the barrel"? It's because the schools themselves are physically falling apart. Class sizes are 35 kids or larger now, up from 25 a decade ago, despite decades of studies showing that education quality declines with larger class sizes. Most schools have computers that are 6-7 years old and barely holding together, school infrastructure for email and web outreach is likewise a joke, and as likely as not it's all administered by the one tech-savvy teacher on staff who gets a measly 8-10 grand bonus per *YEAR* to spend an extra 20 hours a week trying to hold it all together with duct tape and baling wire.

                  They can barely convince teachers to keep teaching in the system as it is. Why? Because it's shit wages forever, you have to spend at least 5 grand a year on "continuing education" and take outside classes on your own just to fucking remain certified, you have to spend your own money on any classroom materials other than the books chosen by the curriculum administrators and the chalkboard or whiteboard in the front of the room, and then when the next budget crunch comes around, all the teachers in the state have to take a pay cut and then get blamed for being "the problem", like the fucking Retardicans and that college failout retard Scott Walker in Wisconsin pulled recently.

                  You want to have schools that teach well and give all kids an opportunity for a good education? LEARN TO BE WILLING TO PAY FOR IT. The US educational system, thanks to the Retardicans, is like trying to pay Yugo prices for a car but expecting you'll get a Lamborghini. NOT. FUCKING. GOING. TO. HAPPEN.

                  • Fact check (Score:5, Interesting)

                    by csumpi (2258986) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @01:15AM (#39556919)

                    Next time, before spewing all that venom on how the US is not spending any money on education, please check your facts:

                    http://mercatus.org/publication/k-12-spending-student-oecd [mercatus.org]

                    "As we can see, with the exception of Switzerland, the United States spends more than any other country on education, an average of $91,700 per student between the ages of six and fifteen."

                    How much of this money goes to actually educating the kids after the unions take their cuts, I don't know. But saying that Republicans "demand to have a first-rate educational system while not wanting to pay a [...] dime of taxes to support it", is simply not true.

                    Throwing more money at the problem won't fix it.

                    Fix the families. Restore family values. Education and all other aspects of life will follow.

                    • by surgen (1145449)

                      Fix the families. Restore family values. Education and all other aspects of life will follow.

                      I agree that parents are the problem, they need to take a more active role in their children's education, but what are family values? And how are they going to fix the educational life of any child?

                      I'm not being sarcastic, I actually want to know what "restoring family value" means, because as far as I've been able to tell its a dog whistle term for other things, most of which don't have anything to do with parenting and the few that do are about sheltering children from sex. None of which does dogshit to

                    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                      by Anonymous Coward

                      LOL! I wonder how that data was collected? When I try to google Mercatus, the first auto complete is Koch brothers... The idea we spend on average ~$100k/yr/child is hilarious. The real number is ~$10k.

                      Simple check. There are 12 years between 18-6 ages. The average life expectation is 72 years. So roughly 1/6th of the population is of public school age. There are over $300m us citizens and so there are ~50m school age students. If we were spending $100k/student/year on it would be $5T/year or half the GDP.

                    • Re:Fact check (Score:4, Informative)

                      by homunculi (778209) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @01:00PM (#39561835)
                      As a teacher in New York state, I can tell you that the Union does not a cut at all. I pay my union dues myself. What European schools do not do is provide a fraction of the special education services that American Schools provide. If you take out Special education costs the per student dollar amount drops precipitously. They also do not provide free lunch and breakfast or in many countries subsidies meals AT ALL. Thirdly, and in my district this is huge, the cost of transportation is ridiculous. We are a rural district with approximately 110 kids per grade but over 300 square miles from which to bus them. New York state just passed a 2% property tax cap which prevents school budgets from going up regardless of whether diesel or gas prices (bus fuel) or heating oil goes up. Moryath is right. If people want a first rate education for their kids they need to be willing to pay for it.
                    • by Bigby (659157)

                      Yes. When a parent goes out of their way to prevent their child from doing better than themselves, there is a cultural problem.

                    • Re:Fact check (Score:4, Interesting)

                      by jythie (914043) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @09:22AM (#39559027)
                      Pretty much.

                      Right now American culture idealizes the uneducated self starter, the charismatic salesman who becomes and executive or the untrained (or better yet, rejected) garage inventor who outsmarts all the eggheads....

                      Improving one's life through education is seen as the 'looser' way of getting a good life, the path that lesser people take.
            • by mysidia (191772) on Monday April 02, 2012 @10:49PM (#39556221)

              Which obviously ignores the fact that people were capable of getting excellent educations for thousands of years without any of this electronic gadgetry.

              Are you sure? There were no Albert Einsteins back then.

              We could manufacture goods too, thousands of years before factories or machinery. That fact doesn't imply we did a good job at it or did it efficiently

              It's not a question of what can be done. Schools could educate with zero technology, but it would be inefficient, and the outcome would be poor. Schools should be doing the best possible job at educating students as efficiently as possible, so that students can better themselves, and so, as a result, our country can better itself.

              Technology and the ability to use technology is very important in our society and is becoming more important. A lot of innovative things can be done with technology that would be of great benefit to the public and of great benefit to students and all involved.

              You cannot "learn technology" or "understand technology" solely by reading about its history, who invented it, how it works, or reading about how its used.

              There comes a point where practical exercise is absolutely necessary to obtain even a basic level of of familiarity and skill. "Book smart" only goes so far. You can read all the books about writing and literatuire that you want, if you never write anything, not even an essay, you will not be a good writer.

              Certain technologies are so important to the world that students should be immersed in it, be required to use it daily and extensively, so that they master the technology.

              Pen and paper and Books used to be in that category. Nowadays I would say Laptop and Keyboard and World wide web fall in that category.

        • by Obfuscant (592200) on Monday April 02, 2012 @06:18PM (#39554231)

          And access would cost another $20/month in a world where (gasp!) many kids are going to school without breakfast and are relying on the school district to provide them with lunch, since their parents simply can't afford it.

          That is amost certainly the nail in the coffin of the electronic notifications to parents system. Imagine the "social stigma" if a teacher sent email notices to most parents, but had to give Billy and Marcia printed notices because their families are too poor to have the Internet and can't get email? Or if Roger is a bright kid and he tells the teacher that his parent's email address is a gmail address he controls?

          That, and if it is a notice that requires a signature of a parent (field trip authorization, etc.) it will have to be paper anyway.

          • "signature of a parent (field trip authorization, etc.) it will have to be paper anyway."

            No, there are many ways to electronically sign things.
            The point of a sig. is not that they can trace the ink back to your pen but that the design is not easy to copy.

            • by hawguy (1600213) on Monday April 02, 2012 @06:53PM (#39554643)

              "signature of a parent (field trip authorization, etc.) it will have to be paper anyway."

              No, there are many ways to electronically sign things.
              The point of a sig. is not that they can trace the ink back to your pen but that the design is not easy to copy.

              How do you positively validate the identity of a parent in a household where the student is the most computer literate (and perhaps the only English speaker), thus responds to all of the parent's email? Give the parent a secureID dongle and hope they don't share the PIN with their much more computer savvy child?

              • by Sancho (17056) *

                How do you positively validate the identity of a parent in a household where the student is the most computer literate (and perhaps the only English speaker)

                I wonder if they're sending those paper notices in English-only.

              • by mysidia (191772)

                How do you positively validate the identity of a parent in a household where the student is the most computer literate

                You require the parent to dial a phone number that is controlled by the school. On a touch tone phone, they will dial a "Permission slip ID number" printed on the form, they will type their "Secret Parent ID number", they will press 1 to grant permission, press 2 to deny permission. finally, they will be prompted to record a verbal granting of permission

                IVR Voice: "After the tone, y

            • by Obfuscant (592200)

              No, there are many ways to electronically sign things.

              Of course there are, and as slashdot readers we probably know all about them. Try teaching every parent in the US how to use them.

              Then make it as simple as looking at a pile of signed permission slips for a teacher who is dealing with 30 8 year olds who are waiting in line to get on the bus to go to the zoo.

              I came up with a system for signatures on email documents that are used in emergency services. I thought it was trivial. I offered to provide the public key server for the system. I wrote up the step

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by aurizon (122550)

            I am a retired teacher (2002) and the union brass has done everything they could to impede computerization. All excess money has been drained into salaries, and nothing into smartening up the teaching staff so they know a hole in the ground from a nether aperture. This sounds bad, and it is. The structure of teaching salaries does not allow for competence in IT or any hard sciences. Teachers start with a teaching certificate at low wages and over 10-15 years advance in grade and in extra courses taken to a

          • Imagine the "social stigma" if a teacher sent email notices to most parents, but had to give Billy and Marcia printed notices because their families are too poor to have the Internet and can't get email?

            I don't know you, but I'm guessing you've never been poor. Why? Because I was one of those kids who got free lunches. You can't hide your financial status if you are poor. The best you can do is not give a rat's ass about people who would judge you for your single mom's ability to earn a buck.

            And there are a lot of reasons why you might not be on the email list that have nothing to do with being poor.

            Or if Roger is a bright kid and he tells the teacher that his parent's email address is a gmail address he controls?

            If Roger is bright enough to do that he's bright enough to beat his parents to the mail and it sounds like h

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by wisnoskij (1206448)

          Yes but they are the minority.

          Special treatment can be made for the few who cannot access the internet off of school grounds.

          I am sure there are a few armless children who go to school as well. Should we ban all school work that requires writing or typing because of this minority?

          • by hawguy (1600213)

            Yes but they are the minority.

            Special treatment can be made for the few who cannot access the internet off of school grounds.

            I am sure there are a few armless children who go to school as well. Should we ban all school work that requires writing or typing because of this minority?

            If you have 2 systems, then you're doubling the workload of the teachers since now they have to manage notices using 2 systems. I don't know where you go to school, but in many public schools, there are more than just a "few" students who either can't afford home internet, or whose parents are not computer literate.

            And just wait until the lawsuit comes claiming that the wealthy students are being given additional opportunities over the poor students - is it fair to relieve the wealthy student of the burden

            • by Sancho (17056) *

              And just wait until the lawsuit comes claiming that the wealthy students are being given additional opportunities over the poor students

              Much like making fun of the Amish on the Internet, this is a self-defending issue. If they can't afford $20/mo for Internet access, they can't afford the lawyer to sue.

              • by Obfuscant (592200)

                If they can't afford $20/mo for Internet access, they can't afford the lawyer to sue.

                The ACLU and many social issue legal aide groups work pro bono. The lawyers for the school district do not, and they are paid from tax revenue.

            • And some parents/children are not English literate. That does not mean that we send some kind of digital voice box home to all children because we have to make the lowest common denominator the default.
              We already make concessions and have far more then 2 systems in place to cater to minorities.
              And you do not need 2 systems for children who do not have a pc/internet, the cheapest alternative might actually be to supply them with cheap computers and internet access (the cost saved in paper and ink alone would

        • Connectivity is the weak point of most computer for every student program. If the school district is already providing a computer to each student, then working with a local ISP to provide broadband connectivity is a viable subsidy. School computers can be set to automatically VPN into a school controlled network, limiting the potential for abuse. To be useful, the school district will need to spend a great deal of effort toward integrating an LMS and on professional development..
        • Re:Poor people exist (Score:4, Informative)

          by cpu6502 (1960974) on Monday April 02, 2012 @08:18PM (#39555273)

          Another thing to consider, besides poor people, is the real world experience. And in that real world people still use a lot of paper. I'm in a technology company, but still using paper for notes, and printouts of documents for review or hand-outs during meetings.

          Ditto previous places of employment. The idea that everything should be virtual doesn't exist in any place where I've worked. It is illogical to expect cash-strapped schools to be more advanced than billion-dollar corporations are.

      • by LurkerXXX (667952)

        And how much for the dial-up access each month? When the bank account is empty at the end of each month, net access becomes a luxury.

      • by grumling (94709) on Monday April 02, 2012 @06:47PM (#39554581) Homepage

        If said poor person lived in Comcast's footprint they can get 1.5Mbps for $10/month:

        http://moneyland.time.com/2011/08/10/comcasts-internet-essentials-10-a-month-service-for-low-income-families/ [time.com]

        There are some restrictions, like not having an active account for the past 90 days, so shut off the cable and wait a few months.

        • Poor is poor. $10 a month might as well be $100000 in the eyes of the poor. Raise the standard of living, first, then start expecting things of people. The problem we face is wealth disparity. There is no link between work and wealth. The poor are notorious for taking the hardest jobs and wrking the most hours.... well, aside from science postdocs, lol.

      • by Sir_Sri (199544)

        A computer no one has any clue how to use, configure, get help with, or deal with if anything goes wrong with it, and it needs internet access. Depending on how it performs it may be just a time waster, for a parent who could be doing something else, like.. parenting, rather than constant mucking with technology, or waiting for technology.

    • by severoon (536737)
      How does making information more available to some kids hurt other kids?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Hatta (162192)

      We could easily subsidize the purchase of, e.g. a Raspberry Pi if we eliminated some waste from the education system. For example, textbooks.

      Let's take all the money that's spent on textbooks nation wide, and use that to commission a free (as in beer and speech) set of elementary school textbooks. You only have to do this once, because the three 'r's don't change. Once you've done that, you can reallocate your entire textbook budget for technology instead.

      • The problem with giving every child a computer isn't them having the computer, but all the costs associated with it like internet access. And a safe place to store said computer. Probably for a non-zero portion of the students that cannot afford a computer and internet access for it, the computer would be taken by the parents and sold for some quick cash.

        I like the idea of a set of elementary school textbooks nationwide, but who gets to decide on their content? Right now, its the largest states (Californ
    • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Monday April 02, 2012 @07:02PM (#39554735)

      Not just poor people.

      Not everyone can use e-mail. My mother, who would get custody of my children if I had any and something happened to me can't manage e-mail. She can cook and clean and drive, and she doesn't have Alzheimers, and has a decent pension income, but computers and e-mail are simply too complicated for her. Programming her VCR is too complicated for her. When I lived in the same city as she did, she could sort of manage, if I came by every day or two to help her out, but now that I'm 4 hours away it's simply not realistic.

      If anything in that situation it would be the kid running the computing in the house (as happened even when I was in high school). Neither my mother nor father got to the point of using e-mail at home, although my father used e-mail at work and picked it up in his retirement, my mother, not so much (divorced).

      Computers are any or all of expensive, complicated and insecure. Poverty is certainly a major issue, on both ends, running reliable IT systems isn't cheap, and if your e-mail system is down for the day does that mean you're not 'effectively communicating with parents' or some other regulation? A lot of guardians for children lack the capabilities to effectively manage any sort of electronic communication, and by extension that may make the system insecure. Paper isn't secure either, but e-mails to parents is the sort of thing begging to be hacked by some industrious students.

    • by i.r.id10t (595143)

      Yup, and so it comes down to funding. Drastically cut, replaced from 'normal' channels to lottery ticket salesbase for the income (at least here in Fl).

      So... to fully fund everything - breakfasts, quality teachers, low seat counts,etc , The People need to get off the idea of "taxes are bad", taxes need to be levied, and the funds generated from such need to be dedicated to pre-k thru 12 education.

  • by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Monday April 02, 2012 @06:07PM (#39554089) Homepage Journal

    communicates with us primarily by e-mail, but is still required by federal law to have some things on paper.

  • Students do not give their password to parents.
    • by causality (777677)

      Students do not give their password to parents.

      You know that makes no sense, correct? I'll break it down for you.

      1. Parent gives e-mail address to school (just as they currently provide other information at the time of registration). 2. Teachers now have this on file. 3. Teacher e-mails parent. 4. Parent receives e-mail.

      Do you see any point in that process where the student supplies a password? Neither do I.

      Sure, maybe you can come up with some retarded way to do things that would give the student such an opportunity. That would be an

  • Equal Access (Score:5, Informative)

    by rjstanford (69735) on Monday April 02, 2012 @06:08PM (#39554115) Homepage Journal

    As long as some people didn't have (or didn't want to use) electronic access, the school would have to have processes in place to handle paper-based communication. The good news is that paper-based works for everyone; as long as they have to do it that way for some, they can do it for all "for free" as far as process cost goes (which is not insignificant).

    The alternative might save money (might not), but would require teachers either having to figure out each parent's preference independently, or to do all of their work twice for each student (again, not an insignificant amount of time they're spending on overhead).

    • Re:Equal Access (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mariox19 (632969) on Monday April 02, 2012 @06:20PM (#39554257)

      This is a good part of the reason. Schools can't exclude some students, and so disseminating things electronically would make twice as much work for a teacher. But there is another thing going on, too. My girlfriend is a teacher. She used to teach middle school. She wasn't required to post homework assignments online, but there was at least a tiny bit of pressure to do so. She refused, and for what she thought were sound pedagogical reasons.

      We live in an age of irresponsible children and helicopter parents. If an assignment is on the board and a middle schooler has to copy it down and keep track of his assignment book, he's learning something. He's forming a habit. That little boy or girl is learning to take responsibility for himself. Moreover, the parent will have to keep tabs on his or her kid, and ask about the homework assignments. In this way, the parent is contributing to the child's moral development. Now, I realize that this is considered a loaded term in our politically correct society, but responsibility is a matter of character, and building character is one of the things that goes on in school, and is certainly one of the things parents ought to encourage the development of. If a parent, instead, spends every evening looking up on the Web to see what the kid's homework assignment is, that parent is not being a parent but a valet.

      In short, there's an argument to be made for not putting assignments and other things on the Web.

      • by causality (777677)

        We live in an age of irresponsible children and helicopter parents. If an assignment is on the board and a middle schooler has to copy it down and keep track of his assignment book, he's learning something. He's forming a habit. That little boy or girl is learning to take responsibility for himself. Moreover, the parent will have to keep tabs on his or her kid, and ask about the homework assignments. In this way, the parent is contributing to the child's moral development.

        Expecting the school system to be more of a parent than the parents is part of why the public schools are so fucked up. You know what this well-meaning but idiotic intention produces? Zero tolerance policies. That way, when a young child points a french fry at another student and says "bang bang" (something that was once viewed as harmless imagination like cops-and-robbers) he gets expelled because of the zero-tolerance policy concerning guns. The only "moral" he learns is to never respect authority, be

      • Re:Equal Access (Score:5, Interesting)

        by dunng808 (448849) <.moc.ahola. .ta. .pso.> on Monday April 02, 2012 @06:56PM (#39554677) Homepage Journal

        This is precisely the kind of reverse logic that inspired me to start the Open Slate Project. Many teachers confuse the process of doing school with learning. Both my sons regularly received low grades in courses they should have done well in, because they failed to turn something in on time. Think about that. What does "Math - C" really mean? That the student is average at math, or disorganized?

        I too am disorganized, and forgetful ... and a lousy speller. That is why I purchased an Apple Newton, back before there was Palm Pilot. Once I saw how that tool transformed my life, I knew every high school student ought to have one. From there it was a small step to imagining class activities automatically downloaded onto the students' slates. Homework uploaded at the click of a button, located on the worksheet. Continuous status visible to the parents. And more ...

        The argument that poor families cannot afford it does not hold water. In the Open Slate Project, students build and maintain their own slate computers, a modern day version of shop class.

        Why has the project not been successful? Resistance to change. What IT has made it into schools is mostly as a course, like "keyboarding," or, like my sons, a student initiative. My younger son took notes on a Palm Pilot connected to a folding keyboard, then uploaded them to his iMac at home for editing. There were selective teachers who understood problem with a jammed backpack and lost worksheets, and were happy to have him submit homework by mail. They were the exception.

        I thought home schoolers would be more receptive. They, as a group, are even more conservative, and are likely to condemn any and all use of IT in education.

        I still think it is a good idea. I would like to hear from any of you who agree.

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday April 02, 2012 @06:30PM (#39554407)

      And nobody seems interested in spending a lot of money on schools. IT in primary schools is some of the most pathetic I've ever seen. They do a completely shit job of it and a large part is lack of funding. When there aren't enough people, isn't enough cash for good systems ans software, is it any wonder you can't attract people who are good at it and that they can't do their jobs well?

      So first big money increase is that the schools have to overhaul their IT. They need a lot more of it and higher quality. If the system is going to be critical and required, it'd damn well better be implemented and supported properly. You can't say "Well just go find something online for free," when it is something critical to the success of the school.

      Support for people using it, both teachers and students, would be massive too. I know every parent likes to think their kids are real clever with computers but here's a newsflash: They aren't. Regular kids know how to use them in the same way regular people know how to drive a car: They know the minimum necessary to make it work and lack any advanced problem solving skills. I can see that shit every time I play an online game and have to give people support in making Ventrilo or Teamspeak work. Here are people who like computers enough to play online games, and they still don't know enough to make a voice chat app work properly.

      So this wouldn't be some magic thing that would just work. It would require a lot of infrastructure, support, and development and that costs money. Now in the end it very well could be worth it. Maybe it saves money in the long run, by replacing more expensive labour intensive things. Maybe it doesn't save money, but the increase in quality of education make it worth it. Either way the problem is you have to fund it first. Since people are not hot on providing extra funds to education, that is a non-starter.

    • But even if paper remains, that doesn't prohibit schools from also providing electronic access. My brother is a public school teacher, and he posts homework online for parents to check. There's a lot of electronic communication in his class, though I'm fuzzy on the details.

      In my opinion, it should be a goal of our society to provide everyone with access to a web browser and email, at least. We're trying to do it for poor children in Africa, so why can't we also aim to do it for poor people in our own co

    • Any properly formatted document available on the web is also properly printable. Make the document for the web first, and print out things when needed. Depending on the percentage of parents connected, you can either print out copies first and hand them out to everyone, encouraging the more connected parents to recycle on said paper (opt-out style), or have students/parents request printed copies to be sent home (opt-in style).

      Since they print the document up anyway, typing it up using something like Word

  • Schools are Afraid (Score:5, Informative)

    by RichMan (8097) on Monday April 02, 2012 @06:09PM (#39554121)

    See the elementary school teacher who used a school issued PC and accidentally shower her grade school class porn. She lost her teachers license, the school had a lot of explaining to parents to do. The anti-virus on the PC was out of date and had become infected from some other site.

    Given the nature of modern parents allowing connectivity out of school is always going to be scary for teachers and schools.

    What they could do is provide lessons, plans, updates and communications from the school to parents. This still has some risk of the school web-server getting owned, but is a lot less than the risk of one of many-many machines doing something wrong.

    • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Monday April 02, 2012 @06:13PM (#39554161)
      She very nearly got a few decades in jail for it, too - the school district decided to throw her to the mob as a scapegoat, rather than admit their own incompetent IT management.
  • It's a good thought, but you gloss over many things. First, not everyone has a good computer or Internet access. Second, can you imagine the support nightmare? I went through an online Masters program through a good school and it was almost impossible to get everyone online at the same time with working video conferencing. Tons of problems...tons of issues... Now add in to that people that just want their kid to go to middle school and you're setting yourself up for a lot of missed homework because the

  • Insider (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 02, 2012 @06:11PM (#39554143)
    I work in IT in a large school district. 1. Capital costs. It's easy to keep paying administrators and teachers to keep pushing paper around. It's hard to pay for new computers, new network infrastructure, and new employees that know how to set it up and use it. 2. Security. You need to be careful with children's identifying and private information. This is easy to do wrong, and expensive (see 1: new employees) to do right. And it has to be done right. 3. Even when you can do it, you still need to provide the paper versions, because some parents won't/can't use the computer versions. So why pay to do it twice (see 1)?
  • Patience (Score:4, Informative)

    by parlancex (1322105) on Monday April 02, 2012 @06:13PM (#39554177)
    I work in K-12 education as a systems analyst and at least in Alberta where I am situated the change is coming. It isn't as easy as flipping a switch though, there are a lot of barriers in the way of this kind of progress; privacy and security concerns, limited funding for information technology in school jurisdictions, limited funding for professional development for staff to take advantage of this kind of technology, the Old Guard, etc.

    Believe me when I tell you for the most part we are with you, but it takes money that nobody wants to pony up, and time that nobody seems to have.
    • by nblender (741424)

      My son's school does this and is an Alberta school, though it is a charter school so they tend to be more experimental with their processes...

      One teacher started this blog and lots of others have followed and it now seems to be a formal thing still available under its original domain:

      http://www.missmahsclass.com/ [missmahsclass.com]

      My son's teachers communicate with us via e-mail; the school sends out newsletters via e-mail... My son gets assignments from the teachers via his e-mail when he's sick, and turns them in via e-mail

  • In Boulder, Colorado, every school in the district (50+) uses the web portal 'Infinite Campus' to convey grades, as do many, many school districts in major areas. I was going through school during the age of rising web technology, and every school I have been in since middle school (schools all over the united states) has conveyed grades, class performance, etc through web portals and email.

    I don't know where OP is getting their information from, but from my experience the school system has been rapidly
  • by Ginger_Chris (1068390) on Monday April 02, 2012 @06:15PM (#39554205)

    A) You can't assume every child and parent has access to the internet or computers. I work in a fairly normal catchment area of the UK and I'd say there are around 10% of families that fit into this category.

    B) Too many excuses. You set homework online or through dedicated software and the pupils come back with 1001 excuses - "broadband wasn't working", "I couldn't download it", "it was in the wrong format", "printer was out of paper", "I've got it on memory stick and it still needs printing" All easily check-able and solve-able individually but not if you have 30 students. Give a child a piece of paper with homework on it, and if they lose it it's their fault (they could have come and collected a new sheet before the lesson), and if its not done it's their fault. Much much simpler.

  • by sandytaru (1158959) on Monday April 02, 2012 @06:16PM (#39554209) Journal
    It's all fun and games until the child creates a website that explains the entire operation has been cancelled, changes to the password to mommy's account, and never is held accountable for grades again.

    Then again, such a child probably would do better outside of traditional schools anyway.
  • There's your answer. Private schools can screen applicants and parents, if they don't like either then that child is not accepted. Private schools can choose to increase tuition costs to hire people that spend time managing PCs and IT systems (many public schools are struggling to keep the teachers on payroll). All this greatly reduces problems of viruses and (God forbid) pr0n accidently displayed. But then my opinion here will go unnoticed by those in the "high castles."
  • My daughter has a couple laptops, a tablet, iPod... symptom of being a geek's daughter. Alas, many households don't even have a single computer. Many parents have never used a computer or even an easy and secure way to retrieve email.

    Think PCI regulations are tough? There are regulations on who can see your child's report card. It may contain classroom information that could be used by a kidnapper. The parents may live in separate households (divorced, separated, etc.). Schools are not allowed to disclose

  • by flogger (524072) <non@nonegiven> on Monday April 02, 2012 @06:17PM (#39554219) Journal
    Education has historically been slow to change. As an example, it was a technological breakthrough in schools to get VCRs in each classroom in the 90's. To communicate with students, the student needs to know how to check email/facebook/twitter/blogs/etc. However each one of these tools is blocked in the school I teach. Students are not allowed to email, no one is allowed to facebook, tweet, blog, etc. Why not? Because the media has shown that every teacher is a perv who uses facebook/twitter/blogs/emails to stalk students in order to molest them. While I know this isn't true, and the slashdot crowd knows this is not true, average Mom and Dad watching the latest Foxnews/CNN feed gets this idea that teachers use these communication tools for evil. Word got out that I collected students cell phone numbers. (I wrote a script to send an sms before tests, quizzes, due dates, etc.) As a result a district wide policy was put in place stating that teachers are not to text students under any circumstance.

    Why this fear mongering? Lawyers. The district is afraid that a parent will sue and so the entire educational environment is stifled in the community.

    I use Moodle extensively and have set up accounts for parents to view lectures,take quizzes and participate in discussions with the students. it is great. I email with the parents, I set up a blog which parent have the option to subscribe to vis RSS feeds. The parents are slowly getting into the habit of checking the child's grades online....This has been slow going though. I first started posting grades and assignments online ine the mid 90's... it is just now gaining steam... Just like it took the VCR to become commonplace, it will take 15-20 years to get current communication technology in the schools.

    Look up common core standards... New "rules" of educations pushing "21st Century" digital learning standards...
  • by tomboy17 (696672) on Monday April 02, 2012 @06:19PM (#39554247)

    At least where I teach, we *are* connected. The school has a website that links to all courses, the grades are all in an online gradebook that families have access to, and on and on.

    As with many systems, things aren't as well integrated as they could be. The ecosystem of ways to share is so rich that what we end up having is a cobbled together system where people use what's most comfortable to them -- some use online calendaring for assignments, others use a static web page, others a blog, others email distribution lists, others just use the online gradebook to post things, etc. It's tricky as the tech director to decide when to regulate and enforce a common solution for consistency and when to let the diversity flourish to allow for innovation. In our case, we've standardized on the online gradebook and some form of course website, but that's not to say the other forms don't flourish as well (sometimes well integrated into the required forms, others not).

    There are, however, some real downsides.

    The biggest downside is putting everything in electronic form gives parents a weird level of insight into our grading process. By allowing them to peek into everything we do, we no longer choose how and when to communicate with parents, and the result ends up being some weird expectations (parents who right in with anger and concern when there kids have a low average early in the semester when we've only graded 2 assignments, etc. etc.). I also find that by having moved everything online and made things much more public, we are ennabling a lot of parents to continue coddling their kids and lowering expectations for them. Certainly it seems like parents expect us to put everything online.

    Note: I don't speak for all schools, but I can say that here in the Boston regional area, what I'm describing is not at all exceptional. I work at a charter, but the same kinds of expectations are there at the major public districts that surround our suburban town.

  • by CorporalKlinger (871715) on Monday April 02, 2012 @06:22PM (#39554277)
    I think the problem may simply be that teachers perceive they will lack the time to answer questions / comments they receive from parents via email if they open this pandora's box. I know a similar feeling is present in much of the health care industry and other "social service" sectors. The more available one is via "always on" technology, the more time one will have to spend on addressing communications conveyed via this additional medium. Businesses see it all the time - think how much time each day the stereotypical Dilbert-like employee must spend on emails compared with time spent addressing paper memos and phone calls alone (which still exist today) prior to the advent of email. Teachers fear their already strenuous schedule will become even busier. It takes a lot more time for a parent to pick up a phone or write a letter to contact the teacher... and I think that's how a lot of teachers like it.
    • by Knave75 (894961) on Monday April 02, 2012 @08:06PM (#39555203)

      It takes a lot more time for a parent to pick up a phone or write a letter to contact the teacher... and I think that's how a lot of teachers like it.

      I agree completely. The very act of picking up the phone and finding the correct number to dial filters out 90% of the parent calls, of which 99% are of no value to the student. Even when parents email me, I give them my phone number and ask them to call.

      Also, I would never "comment" online. Anything written has to be extremely factual and to the point. Anything I write to a parent, I write under the assumption that this piece of communication could end up in court somewhere, and I word it appropriately. On a phone call, the parents will hear the unvarnished truth, I almost never sugarcoat. An email message however will contain much as much jargon, waffling, and ass-covering as I can fit in the 4 or so sentences I'm willing to write.

      For example, I'm willing to write a parent to say that Johnny got a 43% on his last test, but I will never write that Johnny got that 43% by texting his girlfriend in class and not completing his homework. If they want to find that out, the parents have to call. Why is that? Johnny's parents will point out that homework is not part of the curriculum, the texting is irrelevent, and that clearly I am punishing Johnny for not completing his homework and because I have some weird problem with cellphones, being a luddite like all teachers. Then they will appeal the mark to the superintendent, claiming that I have a clear bias against their son as evidenced by the email I sent them, and threaten legal action.

      The previous paragraph is a true story, happened to a coworker. Parents turned a failure into a pass.

      So yeah, I very rarely write to parents due to logistical (can't answer all parents, serves as a good filter keeping away those that don't really care) and legal (written stuff is dangerous) reasons.

  • by Fallen Kell (165468) on Monday April 02, 2012 @06:22PM (#39554279)
    You will see it much more in private schools than in public ones. The main reason is the base assumption of wealth of the family. You can't expect a family that can barely afford food and housing to have a computer and internet connection at home. Many people take these things for granted (especially people who read Slashdot), but the reality is that there are many school districts where 20% or more of the students qualify for free breakfast and lunch because those might be the only meals they have for the day.

    In private schools, you will see systems like you mentioned in use. Case in point, my cousin's school uses one. His parents can see every homework assignment, every memo/note every night. They can see what class he is in at that moment, what readings they are doing in class that day, what grades he received on every quiz, test, and assignment as soon as they are marked. They know if he is in danger of not getting an "A" for the term while he still has a chance to fix things. It IS an advantage, and one he would have unfairly over other students at the school if their parents did not have computer and internet access. It is why most public schools will not implement it. That said, the reality being what it is, statistically, the parents/families who can not afford a computer and internet access are already hurting the child's performance by not having access to materials which could help teach their child things that he/she is struggling with, especially given the fact that statistically, those parents themselves are least capable of knowing the subject themselves well enough to help.
  • Honestly, it's a simple question of logistics & education. As a student teacher that's constantly integrating technology in productive ways, it's hard for me to watch the rest of the teachers at the school I'm working at (and we're a fairly well off district) try to use technology. They ask me lots of basic questions about things that people really should be able to do by now. My ability to embed youtube videos (not just links to videos, the actual media itself) has drawn gasps. That's frightening.

    Th
  • Los Altos school district has a pilot program with Khan Academy to do exactly this. Instead of lecturing in class and sending homework, they actually have kids watch the instructional videos, and the teachers help the students learn in class depending on their graphed and measured feedback. I'd say that Khan Academy is probably the leader in the next generation of education technologies. It is a free service and the organization is a non-profit. It is worth checking out.

    The flipside of this issue is ine

  • I volunteer in my daughter's classroom, and I hate to be the one to break this to you, but mimeographs are alive and well in public education.

    That said, I never understood why there isn't a website that parents can log in to to access homework materials at the very least. Maybe have all the homework on the website, identified with the section/chapter number, complete with parent material to help your student. You could roll parental communication into it as well, but just the homework alone would be prett

  • You're using logic and reason, which is expressly forbidden in public schools.
  • by BitHive (578094)

    Your 3-year-old daughter is not setting up VPNs.

    The reason your school hasn't gone full-bore with technology is because technology doesn't really revolutionize education.

    Plus, it makes no sense to spend time and money implementing RSS for parents unless all the parents will use it.

    Paper forms are the lowest common denominator and will be around for a long time.

  • Not sure where your kids go to school. But my son in law goes to a public middle school in Ohio, and we are kept informed by email frequently of what is going on. Grades are posted on some webservice we can access. teachers send weekly or biweekly summary emails.
    Important notices are delivered by paper (given to the kid) and also announced by email.

    So I guess it depends on schools and community and how tech savvy the teacher is...

  • My high school used a web interface to track grades and other information instead of the papertrail. My old elementary school has just started the same move to digital. Many schools have class mailing lists where teachers, students and parents can communicate. Of course, transition is slow, partly because schools are heavily infested with the paper-based bureaucracy, but it is already happening, at least here in Europe.
  • What's the advantage to the school? You're talking about introducing highly complex IT systems that will require development and support, both of which are expensive. What's the school going to get out of this?

    I work on (development, training, support, strategy, the whole lot) these sort of systems for a university, and even for us the list of "nice to have" features that aren't going to be implemented is huge (100+ items last time I looked). A lot of schools are adopting open source solutions such as Moodl

  • by RetiredMidn (441788) on Monday April 02, 2012 @06:43PM (#39554543) Homepage

    My wife is a first grade teacher in the school system I and my children attended. (I graduated high school in 1972, so technology had a whole new meaning back then.) I have volunteered for many technology-related projects, including a committee overseeing a complete overhaul/rebuild of the schools, so I have some first-hand experience with this.

    There was a big national (sorry, U.S.) initiative in the 90's to get every classroom connected to the Internet. I participated in several "Net Days", or something like that, where we volunteers ran Cat5 through ceilings and musty basements and punched down net drops In every classroom of every school in our town.

    After that initiative, finding net-capable computers to hook up was a problem (two of my wife's four classroom computers were formerly our home Macs); most school systems are stretching their budgets to put teachers (and mandated special Ed aides) in the classrooms and keep textbooks current; technology is a luxury few systems can afford.

    Don't even get me started on staffing to maintain systems and networks. Most school systems get by with less than a tenth of what a comparable sized company would expect to have in place for IT support.

    As someone pointed out earlier, there was a time not that long ago where you could not assume every home had a computer with decent access to the Internet, and you could not make it the primary means of communication without excluding too many people.

    For a while, my wife paid out her (our) own pocket to maintain a web presence.

    Things are improving; our town is using a system called X2 for web presence, report cards, communication, etc. But refer back to the support staffing issues. There is no real support; the system is maintained and updated by marginally technical personnel for whom this is a secondary responsibility (after, say, actually teaching), for a miserly stipend that works out to less than minimum wage if calculated by the hour.

    I know some people who wish schools did a better job at this would be willing to spend the extra tax dollars to support it, but you'd be amazed at how many want more for less.

  • teachers actually have lives. If they become even more connected parents would expect 24 x 7 responses to every email they send, and bitch mightily if *gasp* a teacher didn't respond immediately to an email sent at 11pm on a Saturday. Most parents are reasonable, but all it takes is one or two idiots who seem to think that the teachers are their and their kid's personal servants who must drop everything to serve whatever need they perceive as having.
  • Among the problems: (Score:4, Informative)

    by rickb928 (945187) on Monday April 02, 2012 @07:00PM (#39554719) Homepage Journal

    1. The middle school I left behind in Maine has students from 17 different countries, speaking 28 different languages. Unicode is not so well supported as we hoped it would be.

    2. Many parents cannot even read their own native language, and their children translate for them. Surpisingly, their children are largely honest about what they bring home.

    3. For parents that drift from one ISP to another, changing email addresses are normal. Forcing them to Gmail presumes they trust any single authority. Many come from places where the government will kill you for talking about something, and it need not even be subversive. Using Gmail scares them just because it is ubiquitous.

    4. Parents who can't read also tend to not go to libraries, nor be able to type in their login name and password. Go figure.

    It's a big world out there, even in America. Email is not yet universal, and I propose that we recognize that the parents that most need to be involved in their kids' education are also less likely to have it.

  • If we were to get teachers that actually could use computers, and administration actually interested in education instead of the sports programs, things would be very different.

    But spending $22,000,000 on a new gym is far more important than computers in the computer lab or a chemistry classroom that is fully stocked with modern equipment, reagents, and textbooks.

  • by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Monday April 02, 2012 @07:12PM (#39554841) Homepage
    The loser schools in Nova Scotia have "upgraded" to Robo calls. I have two kids in two schools and most times their stupid robo-calls don't even bother identifying which school is calling. Then it takes them forever to get around to the point which is usually something like "Please return your textbooks as we are still paying too much for paper versions."

    I don't fret too much as the school system in NS is such an epic fail that I realized that it exists for comedy purposes only. The latest was where they pointed out that NS isn't near the bottom of the heap as rated by the PISA scores(Internationally recognized scholastic test) if NS is at the top of the margin of error and the rest of the provinces are at the bottom of their margins of error. Even with this twisting of reality two provinces crushed NS. Another good example was where a local grade 12 class had something like 7 math teachers before Christmas. The schoolboard did everything they could to say it didn't impact the students. Only one student passed the already dumbed down standardized test. Students were on the radio begging for something to be done.
  • by bertok (226922) on Monday April 02, 2012 @07:15PM (#39554861)

    Schools aren't connected with buzzword compliant social networking crap because there's no reason to think that it would help kids learn! I've worked in an education department's IT division before, and every time somebody tried to push through some sort of "social" or "connected learning" crap it was a total failure. It was underused and pointless. Nobody could ever demonstrate the slightest benefit, but the costs were massive.

    Meanwhile, the real problems that could be solved with technology are being ignored. For example, I have this great statistic that shows that the further away a school is from the city centre the fewer books it has per student. That's insane! What does the physical location of a student have to their with the propensity to read? Why should schools in the country have fewer books? If books could be delivered electronically, students everywhere would have equal and fair access to literature, but noooo... the politicians are totally spineless, and don't have the nerve to tell the publishers to provide digital copies of their works. Copyright this, renegotiate that, it's so much effort... so fuck the kids, let the country bumpkins stay illiterate, what matters is that the honourable senator's kids go to a private school with a library that has three floors and subscribes to fifty journals.

  • by ItsIllak (95786) on Monday April 02, 2012 @07:27PM (#39554949) Homepage

    My kids' school has something called "Wiz Kids" which is essentially a low grade social networking and collaboration/sharing tool. It allows them to post to boards, communicate with teachers and other students in their group (the teacher decides how wide groups are) and access resources provided by the teacher and other students.

    The school uses "Parentmail" to communicate with the parents and other external groups (governors, PTA etc). This sends out emails with updates and notices, or SMS text messages for time critical information. It also has facilities for groups (PTA, board etc again) to share documents and communicate internally though we don't currently use that.

    This is a primary school (kindergarten?) and I know many of the other primaries in the area use the same services. I guess they're quite widely used throughout the UK.

    For the poorer kids, below a certain threshold there's money available to buy a netbook or similar. To the best of my knowledge no-one has claimed one though I could be wrong on that. Everyone has some sort of device that allows Internet access.

  • You seem to think that the teacher would do things that are to the benefit of the student, and are willing to create a public record of what they are doing. While this could clearly be done, without requiring teachers to be extremely knowledgeable computer users, it will be fought by the teachers and their unios who do not welcome the openness that your request would bring about.
  • Some schools don't have IT staff or lump on top of a stuff members other job.

    Some schools may have 1 tech covering 3-5 schools and they don't have the time to much more then a basic setup.

  • by TheDarkener (198348) on Monday April 02, 2012 @08:04PM (#39555191)

    You're talking about fairly advanced topics when it comes to normal peoples' level of computer knowledge. E-mail would be the best method of content delivery, and it might work, but it would incur costs (at least at first). Schools move at the pace of their funding, and the U.S. educational system is horribly ridden with red tape as well as 'certain vendors' that wouldn't want that due to loss of money somewhere along the line. Also, schools have so many regulations to follow, so many student/teacher privacy issues, blah blah blah...ugh.

    I've worked with California schools as a technical consultant/engineer in the past, and let me tell you... for the most part, the people on the ground (teachers, other staff) are respectable and well open to doing things like this (though they won't understand it one bit)... but the system itself is a total bitch. It ends up imploding upon itself very often, in my experience. Kinda sucks.

  • The real world (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dbergerson (1116701) on Monday April 02, 2012 @08:18PM (#39555277)
    It's amazing how educated people got when there were not computers. I got into an argument with my daughter's private school over technology in the classroom. They were arguing over laptops (Mac/PC) and then over formats (Google Docs/Word.) I sat back and said if this is the whole goal of the school to 'bring in' technology, I will be withdrawing my child. They looked at me confused. I told them that if they are that determined about HOW they write the material versus WHAT the material they write is, then they are not educators, but lazy bums. I also argued with a parent who is a very smart guy, very wealthy and very successful. He argued that the education system is broke, that it is terrible, that technology needs to be pushed into the realm. I gave him a simple thought . . . If the education system is so broken, how did you do so well in it? Another parent who runs a nerd company doing PC repairs was arguing that the schools current machines were running XP on Shuttle boxes. He kept arguing how old the OS was. I told him, "If the school upgrades to Windows 7 or Mac OS X, do you think all the students will suddenly get straight A's?" People miss the perspective imo. Would I like to have gotten away from the paperwork nightmare that the school generated and sent to me? Sure. But I realized it made my child have to come talk to me. That act alone, opened up an opportunity for conversation. In essence, I could be a PARENT. When I wanted to find out how she was doing in a class, it was simple, I emailed the teacher directly. I used the old business trick and gave the teacher 48 hours to respond. If they didn't, I sent another notice and CC'd the principal and the board members. I got the answers I was looking for. There are lots of studies out there that have shown that there is no gain for electronic based teaching for the student. There is tremendous gain for electronic based teaching for the owners of the school. This is no different. There is a LOT to be said about the ability for a student to have interaction with a human teacher and human students.
  • by enjar (249223) on Monday April 02, 2012 @08:41PM (#39555439) Homepage

    But the teacher tells the parents flat out that she doesn't respond to email. Why? Her job is to teach my daughter and twenty or so other kids. Not sit behind a screen and answer parent's emails and make blog entries. I think it's fantastic -- she's really dedicated to her work, and it shows. She will send an email if there's something important coming home that we really need to know about. It's typically short and to the point, because she has lesson plans to work on, papers to grade and other stuff to deal with. I can also imagine that by being upfront about her email policy, it likely cuts down on a lot of BS mail that parents would send. Not to mention a bunch of unsolicited advice -- imagine having 30-40 people telling you how to do your job.

    But the district is by no means a bunch of Luddites. The district has a listserv and web pages. The principal and superintendent send weekly emails, as well as community updates. The kids have access to computers in the classroom, and they are working on getting iPads in all the classrooms (they currently have to rotate them). Technology is well-integrated to support the actual educational mission of the school. As I've visited the higher grades for one thing or another, there are ample computer resources available, and the district has wifi in all the schools. So it's there, and it seems that they have thought seriously about how to use that technology to get the job done.

    As for bringing home papers, working on them, then bringing them back -- there's a big lesson about responsibility in there. Kids are very tactile and oriented towards things -- so the paper has a meaning. It's the same reason we give an allowance in cash and why they teach counting with things instead of numbers on a board only.

    There is also the finance question, too. Given that the private sector is slowly dragging itself out of the last economic downturn, the public sector is lagging the public sector by a couple years. Our district is facing a $3M shortfall this year, so spending of any kind is being severely impacted. Groups like the PTA and some other educational foundations in the town have been doing a fantastic job with technology donations, but it's highly likely that teachers will be laid off and classroom sizes will rise again. We already have athletic fees, bus fees, numerous fundraisers and other ways of extracting money for the school already. And we are in a town that's relatively well off, where property values haven't been slaughtered too badly -- there are towns in far more dire situations. We still have some art, drama and elective classes left.

    So add that all up and yeah, schools aren't going to go out and spend big money on new and unproven stuff. They will make what they have access to last longer, and do what they can to get the kids educated. I'm proud of the work they do, as they accomplish a lot with what they have, and they seem to have good leadership, too.

  • by kenh (9056) on Monday April 02, 2012 @11:22PM (#39556361) Homepage Journal

    With a sample size of ONE, he has extrapolated that every public school is exactly like his child's school.

    Using the same logic, every school in America provides every child with an email address, ha computers in every classroom, posts student grades on a secure web portal (infinite campus), and has a "virtual backpack" that school announcements are put in (dynamic web pages, one per school/grade)... How do Icome to this conclusion? Because that is what my school district provides/offers...

Never put off till run-time what you can do at compile-time. -- D. Gries

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