Most of you know I am a computer geek to the core. If I don’t have an iPhone, iPad, or my much abused MacBook Air with me…I’m probably having convulsions. Living on the dawn of the “digital citizenship” (something that was said tonight) has been a wonderful thing for me personally and professionally.
Tonight, I took a little trip to our school board meeting after band practice (more on that later….the whole band thing is really turning out well). Tonight’s discussion revolved around the mundane (the interviewing process for a coach) to the discussion around moving to a “digital curriculum” with the iPad as the central device in this process.
HCCSC is currently in the process of deciding to move to a digital textbook/learning environment. This will (as currently proposed) give an iPad to every student grades 6-12 this year, and then every student (including Kindergarten) next year. Instead of textbook fees, parents would be charged $100 per year for access to the iPad. The schools are purchasing these devices and will then maintain and monitor them closely.
And this is where things get weird….bad…..awful…..etc.
The idea being proposed is students will use the iPad as their primary learning device, as opposed to textbooks. This is a good thing overall (no more dead trees, incredibly large books carrying dead knowledge, etc). However, the plan is to let teachers determine curriculum choices based on their own choices and guidelines. This isn’t a bad thing either…but this is being implemented….now. As in ordering/setting up/testing/deploying by August 15th. Mind you, nothing has been ordered or even approved yet. So now, instead of having a textbook/lesson plan figured out….teachers will need to wing it. Not an impossible hurdle…unless of course you are terrified of the iPad which many of the teachers are.
So what about deploying the iPad to every student? Each student will get their own iPad which they will be responsible to keep safe, charge every night, and ensure they take to school each morning. For this year, it will be limited to middle and high school students….but next year each Kindergartener will have their very own shiny new iPad to cart around. Every day. This seems safe.
OK…so we get past the “teachers scared/kindergarteners using as kleenex” phases. While these are not impossible hurdles…we now get to distribution and management. 2,000 brand new wireless clients on a school IT infrastructure that can’t/won’t stop https. Where they can get on personal ads for Craigslist. Or Facebook. Or anything else on the planet. But lets say this goes well and the handoff goes smashingly. What about the back-half of the network piece. You know, where students will get their learning experience…otherwise known as “The Internet”. Now that your primary work is taking place offsite…..do you have the network to back it up? Wait…we’re still debating? Again, August 15th looms….
But lets say you get the budget, the staff, the distribution, the network up to snuff by August 15th…..
What happens when all of that doesn’t work?
If the Internet goes down, your students are offline. If they unleash an iOS virus, your students are offline. If a nasty head cold works its way through the Kindergarten, your students are offline. If….if….if.
There’s a way to get kids to be “digital citizens”. This isn’t the way to do it.