Madison School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham is a strong supporter of technology in the classroom. That’s why she is putting a $27.7 million computer plan in front of the School Board tonight.
But Cheatham also knows what really drives education, from kindergarten to high school.
“It’s the quality of teachers that matters the most,” she told the State Journal editorial board during a recent meeting.
Putting a tablet computer into the hands of every Madison student “will absolutely help teachers with instruction,” Cheatham said.
In our multi-device, always-wired world, understanding and using the latest technology is a must for today’s students and can cater to their individual needs and interests.
Ultimately, the issue is not how many devices are in a classroom but, rather, how those devices are used. The technology needs to offer more than whiz-bang special effects. It needs to open new paths to learning.
The high-dollar technology plan has attracted critics who question the cost and worry about additional “screen time,” especially for the youngest students.
The Madison Metropolitan School District’s multi-million dollar Tech Plan is spending a lot of money on devices not proven to benefit student learning, according to an assistant professor of education at Madison’s Edgewood College.
In addition, the district isn’t giving teachers, parents or students opportunities to provide meaningful feedback on the plan, said Donna Vukelich-Selva in written remarks to the Madison school board shared Monday with The Cap Times.
The School Board is scheduled to vote Monday, Jan. 27, on what is now a revised, estimated $27.7 million, five-year plan that would greatly increase the use of computers in classroom instruction. The school district pared the proposal slightly, following a community update session last week, to include fewer devices for the youngest students. The plan now would provide one computer tablet in the classroom for about every two kindergartners and 1st-graders, and a one-to-one computer ratio for students in grades 2-12.
But Vukelich-Selva said concerns that the district is moving too fast on the Tech Plan, expressed by parents and teachers at the community update Jan. 22 at Memorial High School, were dismissed.
“It is clear that many significant stakeholders in the district were not taken into account,” she wrote.
The Madison school board first considered a draft of the plan on Jan. 13.
On hearing criticism that the proposal has advanced too quickly, Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham said last week that the district has been “thorough and methodical in the development of the draft plan.”
Vukelich-Selva also said there was inadequate assessment of the impact of one-to-one computing on learning for younger students through fifth grade. She pointed to an apparent focus on technology itself rather than curricular goals.
“The huge numbers of ‘devices’ we are being told we need in our classrooms will help support a vastly expanded platform for more standardized testing,” she said.
Research shows that most large-scale evaluations of one-to-one computing initiatives have found mixed or no results, and underscore the importance of teacher mastery of using the devices, Vukelich-Selva wrote, referring specifically to an article in “Educational Leadership” from February, 2011, that is critical of one-to-one programs.
Much more on the Madison School District’s Technology Plan, here.
One would hope that prior multi-million dollar technology implementations such as Infinite Campus, would be fully implemented first.