Good Intentions

The following post is a response to Dangerously Irrelevant’s Leadership Day 2010, a call for bloggers to write posts concerning “effective school technology leadership.” I’m a little late to the party but someone has to be or it’s not a party.

Artists, no matter how good their intentions, are always slower than they think.
Mark Millar

The short way to make my point in this post is to substitute “artists” in the above quote with “administrators.” I’ve known very few administrators who see themselves and their schools, or their own education and skills as behind the technology curve. Furthermore, one needs only to take a look at our schools and education system as a whole to see that those in charge are indeed slower than they think. But they do mean well, or at least I hope they do. Many administrators push the use of technology in classrooms and their institutions, but they lack the refined, skeptical eye necessary to establish whether the use of certain technologies is effective and purposeful. The result: mentions of a progressive education in mission statements and more computers around the school, but a student population that only knows how to use the computers to check their Facebook page or email. (I’m reminded of the Vince Lombardi quote “Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.”)  In short, effort and good intention amongst educational leaders are not enough when implementing technology in schools.

For example.
Walter S. Parker Middle School
Walter S. Parker Middle School

Before I divulge into administrators’ technology use and Edline itself, I want to start off with this simple observation: I could create a page like this. Easily. Odds are you could create a page like this. Odds are that many of the students we instruct could create a page like this, and those who can’t will hardly be impressed by such a design that looks like an artifact from the first days of the world wide web. I frequently wonder if I had to dial-up to get to this point and am anxious about how long it will take to download an alternate page. Secondly, this is a four-color template. Two year-old’s use more variety in coloring books. Sad to think. Moving on.

Edline describes itself as a service that “provides the world’s leading technology solutions that help schools improve student performance by harnessing the power of parental involvement, supporting teachers, and engaging the learning community.” In my opinion, Edline is 0-for-4. An informational cloud and network of school pages is not amongst the world’s leading technology solutions. Edline’s service does no better job of harnessing parental involvement than a mass email by a teacher or a few phone calls. As for supporting teachers, there is nothing the company provides that most teachers couldn’t do or don’t already do on their own. As for engaging the learning community, see rant above. And if that is not enough, know that Edline does not provide forums for discussion or allow for student-generated content. In short it is an advanced information system. Parents, students, and administrators don’t use Edline, they look at it to find out grades and homework, if that.

It is not a tool of learning but a tool of information. Information that is easy to come by. And we want kids to be impressed with this when they go home every night? We think this is helping them adapt to the digital-age learning culture? Yes, Edline and other systems like it make it easier to communicate with parents, access grades, and get homework assignments. But what of it? There is no level of student participation. The student does not gain any sort of technological fluency, unless you count signing on to a website and a few clicks of the mouse as fluency. This is information that is on a white board throughout the day transplanted onto a computer screen. There is nothing wrong with that. But to mistake it for effective technology use, for educational leaders and companies to sell Edline and other information systems as a means for students to learn through technology or a way for a school to foster digital learning only demonstrates that they are slower than they think.

–ALR

One thought on “Good Intentions

  1. Pingback: #leadershipday10: the complete list : Darcy Moore's Blog

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