Not Fair and Not Equal

They say it costs somewhere around $250,000 to raise a child today.  I wonder how much it costs a school district to educate them. School budgets are no strangers to shortfalls, and an increase in pressure to use technology has made it even more difficult for districts to make ends meet.  It’s all about devices; we need more available, we need apps, we need replacements, we need more bandwidth, and so on.  While it’s true that some aspects of preparing kids for their futures can be done without the aid of technology, kids do need to be comfortable using technology to communicate and collaborate. But this is one of the biggest differences I see in the schools I’ve worked in and those I’ve heard about: not-so-equal access to devices.

My district is beginning a rollout of 1:1 Chromebooks for the 2015-2015 school year, and only in grades 11 and 12 (more grades added the following year).  Other districts have been 1:1 in K-12 grades for a few years now.  And as far as plans go right now, the closest we’ll get to 1:1 in the elementary grades is one cart of devices PER GRADE LEVEL.  In some buildings that might not be a big deal, but some of my grades have as many as six sections.  That’s a ratio of almost 5:1.

How are my kids supposed to compete?  I still have 4th and 5th graders who occasionally struggle with logging on to their device after nearly nine months of technology class once every six days.  Imagine what that looks like in a building with devices in their classroom every hour of the day.  Those same kids didn’t know how to highlight text on the screen in September.  What were the 1:1 kids doing in September?  Probably the same things my kids were doing in May, maybe more.

Again, technology is no replacement for good teaching.  As one of my former principal says, “good teaching is good teaching.”  She’s right, but good teaching alone is not enough to prepare kids for the future.  The innovation, problem solving, communication, and collaboration that can happen through the use of technology will provide our kids with the best preparation possible for a future we can only imagine.

I will continue to do what I can for my kids, both with sound teaching practices and the incorporation of technology.  And I will continue to hope that my district (and its voters, when necessary) will fund additional technology initiatives and increase student access across the district.  In the mean time, I will continue to educate myself and my colleagues about ways to efficiently incorporate the technology we do have so it doesn’t sit idle during the school day.

Do you have any creative ways of getting technology into your students’ hands?  Or maybe a great source for funding?

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