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April 10, 2008

Technology in the Madison Schools

I am the parent of 2 children, one in first grade and the other soon to enter Kindergarten. I recently registered my child for Kindergarten where I was handed a very helpful folder with lots of great information in it. It had pictures of children learning in various contexts and text touting the wonderful education Madison children receive. The curious thing is that in the center of the folder is a picture of children using computers that are most likely more than 10 years old. Across the picture in large print it says "Welcome to Madison's Award Winning Schools!" Opposite the picture is a paragraph stating that there is a 4 to 1 computer ratio and that computers are integral to the K-12 instructional program. While I don't doubt all this to be true, just how old is that computer that is "integral" to my child's instructional program? Is my child getting the experiences that meet today's standards for knowledge in this area? While this is just a picture, it caused me to look around my daughter's school and to talk to a few teachers. What I learned was appalling.

Many teachers do their grades at home, not because of time, but because their classroom computer is so old and slow that it freezes on them or times out during an upload and they lose all of their data. I was stunned and confused. We as parents have been hearing about this new system that will allow us better access to seeing how our kids are doing in school and yet the teachers can't even enter data from their classrooms. Should we not be embarrassed as a district? Can we really claim truth in the text filled folds of the aforementioned folder?

I know there are many academic standards which drive curriculum. These standards also include technology standards. In fact the federal government through Title II Part D Enhancing Education Through Technology Program allocates funds to the DPI for which school districts can then apply for grants with the specific goal to:

"improve student academic achievement through the use of technology in elementary and secondary schools. It is also designed to assist every student – regardless of race, ethnicity, income, geographical location, or disability – in becoming technologically literate by the end of eighth grade, and to encourage the effective integration of technology resources and systems with professional development and curriculum development to promote research-based instructional methods that can be widely replicated."

Perhaps MMSD does apply for funds, but if so, where are they? Do they not make it to our elementary schools? Are they being used for something else? How are our students to become technologically literate by the end of 8th grade when the equipment they have to work on is so slow and out dated that rather than being productive it becomes an exercise in frustration? If it isn't an exercise in frustration my suspicion is the programs that are being used and taught to our kids are yesterday's technology rather than today's, as that is the only technology that could perhaps run on their current machines. I'm sure students are learning some keyboarding skills and drawing tools which are important. But, are they getting access to working with digital photos, video, creating their own publications, Internet search skills for researching topics they are studying, learning about authors whose books they are reading, participating in Project Lemonade ( and many other educational ventures appropriate for elementary students? I'd be surprised if any of this could be done successfully on the equipment currently in the classroom and in many of the elementary computer lab classrooms throughout the district.

Madison won awards for educational excellence but that was long ago. It is now 2008, what are we doing to keep up? We can't keep riding on our old fame. I'm glad to see so many new faces in the school board and perhaps with a new superintendent at the helm we will be in a better position to start "catching up" to where we should be if we are living up to the spirit of the language on our "welcome to MMSD" folders.

Thoughts of a concerned parent...

Posted by Lauren Rosen Yeazel at April 10, 2008 7:10 AM
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