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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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How Much Does Your School Use Its Technology Pool?: Chances Are, Not Enough

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant

It is summer, and I am trying to get back to Maine from a conference in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, storms have caused Atlanta's airport to shut down for an hour or so at just the right time to mess up my travel. Ah, well, it is summer, and this is the southeastern United States. Such things happen.

As we circled Atlanta before heading over to Columbus, Georgia, to refuel, I looked down at the houses, highways, and farmlands and noticed one feature of the suburban neighborhoods we were flying over: swimming pools. Behind so many big, brick houses, there were swimming pools, and each looked blue, cool, and inviting.

But I suddenly realized they were all empty. Each one. I said to myself, "Hold it, Jim. Have you ever seen anyone in a swimming pool in any of these neighborhoods you've flown over?" I had to admit I had never seen a single person in a backyard swimming pool -- and I fly a lot.

Conversely, there are pools like the one at the hotel I'm staying at right now as I wait to restart my travel tomorrow. This pool is jammed with what looks like an extended family enjoying a reunion. There are kids and adults playing, talking, jumping, splashing, dunking, floating, throwing balls, and relaxing in deck chairs. They are having a blast and using the dickens out of that pool. What a difference from those beautiful show pools I see in relatively affluent backyards across the United States.

This observation prompted me to compare the use of technology in schools to these swimming pools. Some schools acquire and use technology because of a strong desire to further the knowledge and skills of its students. But if a school implements new technology simply to follow suit with neighboring schools, there is a good chance the technology will be underused like the pools I saw from the air earlier today.

So, here are some questions for you: How much does your school use its technology? Is it in demand like the pool at my hotel -- perhaps even insufficient to meet that demand? Are things just right, with plenty of technology available and widely used across all curriculum areas by students and teachers to support teaching and learning? Or is it like the swimming pools I see in those backyards -- unused because of scheduling challenges, curricular rigidity, or other school-specific issues?

Hey, the water's great. Jump in and let me know what the technology pool is like at your school.

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant
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David B's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think you hit the nail on the head with tech use as far as I've observed. My first 8 years of teaching were in an inner city school that had computers and internet, but which worked just enough to justify not upgrading. This lead to inconsistent services which could not be relied upon by teachers who have to plan weeks ahead. The few teachers who went ahead anyways did fantastic things with use of the web.

I spent a year in an affluent district with resources hoping to really be able to throw myself into more innovative uses of tech. What I found instead was the most basic uses of the most expensive equipment. Although it was being used by many teachers, the majority of use was simply as a research tool and blackboard alternative via powerpoints. There was no sharing of work online, no branching out to the community, not even basic use of discussion boards. I attribute this to the main focus of public schools with money, making parents happy. And how do parents interpret that the school is doing a good job? High test scores. Unfortunately, this throws innovation out the window.

I give the school credit for at least using the tech, but I saw innovation way ahead of the affluent school occurring in the low-income inner city school with the out-of-date tech and internet speeds that would make you want to go to dial-up at times.

Kern Kelley's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi Jim,
M.S.A.D. #48 has put considerable emphasis on providing technology (both hardware, software and professional development) for teachers and students.
We're fortunate enough to be supported by the state (MLTI) here in Maine and are doing everything we can think of to provide users with what they might need. I don't think it's because other districts are doing it, but rather because we recognize its importance in the classroom.
Interestingly many teachers are still not always sure what's available to them. That's when our students come in. By showcasing examples of student projects, teachers get ideas and can visualize results. Plus students are available for support when they need it.

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