Friday, February 16, 2007

Students Request More Technology Classes

Our new superintendent here in Anne Arundel County recently met with middle school students at Severna Park Middle School (the last school I taught at while with the county). I recently caught part of the recorded discussion while scanning cable channels.... I was very impressed with the entire event: the format was well planned, the student questions were thoughtfully crafted and pointed, the confidence of the students in understanding the importance of expressing their concerns and desires. I was further impressed that Dr. Maxwell carved so much time out of his schedule to meet with these students.

While the students' topics varied widely a few were more passionately discussed or mentioned multiple times including more interesting teaching methods (pleading for less 90 minute lecture courses), more choices in elective courses, and the elimination of semesterized social studies and science classes. However, I was most persuaded by their plea for more technology courses. Among other things, they want to know how to type and how to make PowerPoints. I couldn't agree more with their plea. In the technology era that we live in, we are providing a major disservice to students if we don't train them in basic technology concepts... and frankly, I think they deserve far more complex skills.

Our students need to know the basics of internet safety very early in their academic career as well as continuously throughout their schooling. In addition, every student should learn strong research skills and habits -- citing and saving their sources, evaluating and verifying the content they find, etc... I also firmly believe that young students should constantly be creating presentations using technology effectively and learning to present to their peers and school community.

Ultimately, it's a question of when and how? What do you take out of the current school day to accommodate such a course? How is it possible to provide students access to the technology resources they need? (For the students at this discussion, the 2.5 computer labs servicing 1400 students simply won't cut it.) Not to mention, who would teach these classes and what is the sequence of skills they need--- personally I think those two questions would be resolved quickly.

While I think this class should be a stand-alone course, I feel that it should tie into the grade appropriate curriculum, to be an extension of their learning experiences in their core classes. Wouldn't it be great if the teachers could plan together to collaborate on projects so that the students could apply their skills to a project that they would present in their core class?

Does anyone know of a school or district that has implemented a course like this?? I'd love to see examples of effective models.

KUDOS to the students at Severna Park Middle for expressing their concerns, to the staff for listening and arranging the meeting with the superintendent and to Dr. Maxwell for making time to meeting with them. I look forward to seeing what steps are taken to address their concerns.

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