Tuesday, January 5, 2010

That does not compute

I'm sure next school year's budget and ongoing contract negotiations will dominate the headlines in 2010, but we cannot lose sight of our children's education. One particular area I am concerned with is computer learning, more specifically at the elementary school level.

When we cut elementary school computer aids from this year's budget, it was done with assurances that computer classes would continue because the teachers themselves were ultimately responsible for running these classes while the computer aids were there to assist. Unfortunately we have heard numerous complaints from parents that their elementary students aren't having any computer classes at all. I'm not looking to point fingers - we just need to fix the problem, and we need to fix it now.

I encourage parents of elementary students to attend our next Education Development Committee meeting on Monday, January 25th, at 6:30pm in the Board Room at Maple Point. Please come prepared to share your child's experience with computer education this year. Your input is absolutely critical to understanding and ultimately addressing this issue.

If you cannot attend the meeting in person, I ask that you send me an email summary of your child's experience with computer classes this year. Please be sure to include your full name, your child's name/school/teacher, and any other information you deem relevant.

I look forward to your feedback.
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14 comments:

srodos said...

Thank you for posting about EDUCATION.
I was beginning to think that everything was about greed and taxes.
The proper education of the over 8000 students of the Neshaminy School District should be the prime focus of everyone during the new year

Newbie said...

Amen, Brother Rodos, Amen!

Casey said...

You think the board doesn't focus on education? I'll bet you $10 that there are parents out there who don't even know this is a problem because they never talk to their kids about classes.

I appreciate your trying William but I'll bet another $10 you won't get more than 3 parents to that meeting (not including the usuals who attend).

Casey said...

You have called for Neshaminy elementary parents to come to the next education committee meeting or send you emails about their kids' computer labs. Since we know none of them will show up for the meeting, I am curious how many have written to you so far Mr. O'Connor. I'm guessing zero.

William O'Connor said...

You're wrong but (unfortunately) you're not far off . . . I have received one (1) email from an elementary school parent so far.

Enough Already! said...

As a elementary school parent, I wasn't sure how to respond to these comments. I am not sure if casey has children, or if they did, if they remember what it was like. My kids get off the bus at 4:15, have up to 1 hour of homework, then it is dinner, then it is sports, showers, reading, snack, bed. With 2 parents working, there isn't much time for one parent to run to a meeting. Espeically one where we get to listen to people speak and never get heard. I am a very active parent in the community. I serve on many commitee's at my kids' school. They meet during the day when my kids are at school.

I think the comment that struck me the most was not talking to my kids about their classes. I assure that I know EXACTLY what is going on in MY kids' classes. Computer classes at Nesh are a joke. They have always been a joke. Ask to see the curriculum. Wait, there isn't any. Not in the elementary school anyway. Do I care that they cut the aides? No. They weren't teaching them anything anyway. Having taught technology to kids and adults for the last 15 years, I just teach my own kids at home. Again, less time for meetings....
I could go on and on....

Casey said...

You are an exception to the rule EA. You seem to be involved in all aspects of your childrens education, and you have my admiration and respect. But my original comments apply to most elementary school parents. Let me ask you this, how has attendance at your pto meetings been? We always got dozens of parents to the first meeting but those numbers dwindled down quickly with each passing meeting. By half way through the school year, we had the same core group of parents (maybe 10-12) doing all the work that hundreds of parents should have volunteered for. Like you, those 10-12 parents knew what was going on in their childrens school but all those other parents did not.

William O'Connor said...

You'll be happy to know Casey that since this morning I have received another half dozen or so emails from parents with some excellent feedback, and all very similar to what Enough Already stated.

The issue of whether or not computer labs are taking place is only a piece of the puzzle.

I have been getting some truly helpful information from parents, and I hope more continue to write me.

swelle said...

This is going back a few years William but once I was speaking to an aid who was having trouble with her computer. When I suggested she do a cold boot she didn't know what I was talking about. From that day I decided that I would be responsible for my child's computer education.

Angie said...

As a resident of the Neshaminy District and a technology teacher/coordinator in a New Jersey School District, I find this very disturbing. Due to my own two children and the fact that I have to attend the Board meetings of the district I work in, I don't have much time to attend the meetings here. I have attended two meetings during the last school year. During one of those meetings, I gave a copy of the technology/computer curriculum from the district I work in. It is nice to know that didn't go anywhere. I am a certified K-12computer/business/technology teacher and certified elementary teacher in NJ.

William, what can I do to help push this along? We may be short in funds, but there are alternatives to make sure students are learning the skills they need. What kind of professional development are the teachers receiving to teach computers? How is the support for technology?

KClarinet said...

For Enough, a little background about computer classes in Neshaminy:

A more or less deliberate decision was made in Neshaminy years ago (back when the kids were still using Commodore 64s) that computer labs were there to support the curricula in the core (academic) subjects. Their reason for being was explicitly not to teach computer skills, although, obviously, just using a computer on a regular basis would in itself build those skills to some level.

Later the C64s were replaced by networked Macs. The aides were trained for one purpose - to maintain the network, which meant keep the software running, fix what hardware problems they could, and notify the IT department of problems they couldn't handle. They were not expected - were specifically not permitted - to deliver any instruction other than basic ones like how to use the mouse, what keys to press to make the software start, how to clean the mouse at the end of the class, etc... The teaching in the subject area that the programming was designed support (mostly math and reading/writing skills) was the teachers' job (computer lab was not meant to be a prep period). The aides were not certified to teach and often had minimal training needed to maintain the package and the machines. Some were very knowledgeable, and some were less so, but the teachers were not expected (or generally able) to troubleshoot hardware or networking problems and the aides were not expected to deliver instruction.

There were a couple of attempts over the years to replace the subject-area programming with classes to teach keyboarding, computer programming and how to use basic utility software like word processors and simple spreadsheets, etc., but those were regularly rejected as being too expensive - the district would have to have hired additional certified staff to teach those areas.

I only bring any of this up because if parents (perhaps like Enough Already!) were really expecting that their kids would be learning basic computer skills in the labs, they might well have found the instructional games and activities that the kids were doing to be "a joke."

Whatever anyone thinks of the use the labs were put to, any use of the labs at all for any purpose requires that someone be responsible for maintaining them. The teachers, even if they are qualified (which many are not) are busy with kids all day. The IT department will never have enough people in it to run to every school and fix every hardware and software problem that comes up. And classroom teachers who plan lessons around the lab's software only to find the lab down with no one to troubleshoot probably very quickly become a little reticent to keep including the labs in their plans.

I Must Be Living in Jersey said...

William, sorry for this off topic post but did you see the CT article about Larry Pastor violating election law? Paste this link into your browser to see it http://www.phillyburbs.com/news/local/courier_times/courier_times_news_details/article/28/2010/january/08/pac-leader-accused-of-skirting-finance-law.html

William O'Connor said...

Yes I saw it, Jersey. Thanks.

William O'Connor said...

Angie, I remember your handing out that information at a board meeting a while ago when Kadri was the super. I know he was reviewing it but of course he left the district before anything could be done with the info.

I would be VERY interested in seeing your district's computer learning curriculum, especially in the elementary school. If you have it scanned, please email it to me. Thank you!