K-12 Schools & Technology

“The greatest asset of the American, so often ridiculed by Europeans, is his belief in progress,” Victor Vinde, in 1945
Mary Kay Battaglia recently wrote about the virtual non-existence of electronic communication with parents in the Madison School District. I agree with Mary Kay’s comments.
Having said that, I believe that any District technology investment should be made in the context of these three priorities:

  • Curriculum: we should strive to teach our children to be creators rather than consumers (writing and thinking rather than powerpoint).
  • High Expectations: Our children must have the skills (arts, languages, math, science, history) to compete in tomorrow’s world. Retiring Milwaukee High School Principal Will Jude refers to the Tyranny of Low Expectations:

    Graduation comes, “but it’s at the expense of content.” The student goes to college and finds other kids are way ahead. Jude’s response: “You were doing the A section of the book while they were doing the B and C sections. You covered a lot of material but it was very shallow. They covered a lot of material but it was in depth.” . Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron (1961) provides further useful reading.

  • Inquisitiveness: Our students interest in and ability to ask questions, in other words, their willingness to question things that they read, observe and hear (Jay Rosen shows how important this is to our democracy).

Today’s communication tools provide our students and community with an unprecedented ability to converse, debate and learn. Our K-12 students, like their parents and those who teach them should be comfortable conversing in written form, email, cellphones, voicemail, weblogs and html.

The Madison School District, as Troy Dasler pointed out, will soon start to implement a new internet based Student Information System.

This type of system can provide enormous benefits to staff, teachers, administrators, parents and students. However, and this is the critical part, people have to buy in and actually use it. In this respect, the Madison Schools are no different than any organization. Successful technology implementations require:

  • Leadership
  • Great People
  • Technology that works – in this order!

Kurt Kiefer and others in the Madison Schools have evaluated systems for some time. They’ve involved staff and parents (including me, for what it’s worth) in this effort.

Mary Kay notes a central issue to the success of a new system:

I propose MMSD purchase a software system, (I have been informed MMSD is in the process of doing this), and parents volunteer to spend a Saturday or two doing an inservice day to educate our educators about e-mail and the internet. I have had this conversation with many parents, and I could get a whole classroom full of parents ready to help increase communication with the teachers and schools. I realize people HATE change. The teachers that have never communicated with parents won’t and those afraid of computers will continue to avoid them. I believe each school has to embrace this and the principals have to reward adoption of computer communication. It would have to be manditory and the union would have to agree or the new system the district is buying will be a waste of money. Just like the voicemail our elementary school acquired has been a waste of money.

This seems like a great idea. Perhaps each PTO can organize periodic, open to all (parents, educators, staff, administrators, community members, students) Saturday or evening email, voicemail, html, student systems or other tech training sessions.

Take a look at the demos and if you’d like to support the PTO training approach, contact Mary Kay Battaglia at marybattaglia at tds dot net. System questions can be directed to Kurt Kiefer: kkiefer at madison dot k12 dot wi dot us I’ve asked Kurt and/or someone from the District to write an article on this project for this site. I’ll post or link to it upon receipt – or they can post it directly 🙂