Friday, June 11, 2010

Does it Work?: Throwing Money at Problems.

I came across this article in the Post (I love skimming the Post, it's an unhealthy addiction) which debated whether or not new technologies are helping students (and teachers) in the classroom. To hopefully no one's surprise, the answer isn't yes (but it isn't necessarily no, either).

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I have thought before that money could solve a lot of problems. Probably earlier this week, I was fiddling with the idea of having the government find out exactly how much every individual needed to start "fresh", add that up and print that exactly amount of money for distributing. And then, there. No more complaints from you poor handlers of cash. Apparently, you can't just print more money on a whim because that will lead to inflation or something like that. I'm not going to pretend like I understand how economics works to any degree (but everyone will have money to afford the inflated prices!), but... I'm just saying, do it for just one day, you know? Someone who does understand economics can explain this to me. For the time being, I'll just call this genius idea The Universal Bailout. Mr. President, I would like $5,000 to be printed, thank you. (Or better yet, a job, because training to teach without pay in the summer is making me really sad.)

Okay, back to the article - I must be really behind because I wasn't aware that SMART/Promethean boards are also called whiteboards. They should come up with a new name because whiteboards sound like the low-tech alternative to blackboards, which I love because chalk is messy and the squeaking makes me cringe. They're saying that by 2011 (i.e. next year), 1 in 3 classrooms will have them. I've slowly started to see them pop up in schools in Maryland. I've never used one and I'm not positive on all that the boards can do, they just look like a projector screen with a projector attached on top. But, apparently, teachers think they're amazing. They can show and save powerpoints, they're interactive and (I think) you can write on them. And some other stuff to which I'm not aware.

And, they cost $3,000 each. Admittedly, they do look pretty cool. But, for me, when I get a new gadget, I tend to try to do everything that involves it. It seems like it's the same way for other teachers, because the Post suggests that these boards make teachers more prone to lecturing and less prone to small group or hands-on activities. But wait! SMART boards allow you to have the student come up and move items around! I'm not sure I understand, white/blackboards could do that too, just with magnets. Looking on the positive side, SMART boards might be more environmentally friendly, and yes, students appreciate new technologies, too. But if the SMART board is a new technology in presenting the same old information your students already aren't that compelled to learn, then use the $3,000 on something more worthwhile.

Don't get me wrong. I love new and shiny things. I am for keeping our classrooms up to date with the technologies available. Maybe I don't yet understand how these new technologies make lesson preparation easier for teachers so they can spend more time on content and delivery. But in no way do I think purchasing these products, when there are so many other problems going on in a school/district, is the solution. Perhaps that $3,000 could be use for more teacher training. Please, there are so many teachers that I've seen that could use more teacher training. Or, for new hires of teachers to replace the ones that can't improve with further training. And after all that, then you can bring in the SMART boards. $3,000 can't solve the problem of our education but it can help to address the real question:

What our do students REALLY need to learn?

A safe environment. I've heard that some students in dilapidated school settings feel like they don't matter. $3,000 can buy some paint and fix-up tools.

Interactive, "natural learning" materials. When I say this, I'm thinking of science and how science is learned by scientists - not from a book (though they do read research journals), but from doing. Science experiments require sometimes expensive materials.

A good teacher. And you can always get better with more experience and more learning. Teachers should keep being students.

Support. Pump some of that $3,000 into PTSA programs to make them more effective in garnering the whole school community together?

There's probably more, but I'm ending this post here. MATH PRAXIS TOMORROW! (--- more on that later.) And clearly, I'm not expert, I'm just speaking as someone who thinks there's more that we can do to help our schools than buying stuff. Gadgets are only as good as the people using them.

Monday, June 7, 2010

My Head is Reeling.

On Saturday, I will be taking my Math Praxis, with my last Math Praxis prep class on Thursday.

Last Monday, I began my Special Education Online Course with PGCC. It will run until the end of July.

In three weeks, I will begin Summer Institute. It will run until the beginning of August.

I was imagining that I would have more down time prior to the beginning of Institute. Not happening. I also need to find a weekend job so I can survive through the summer and to the beginning of my first paycheck. I also need a new apartment after my lease expires next month. Busy, busy.

Teachers, I respect you.