Friday, September 3, 2010

Board member pushes to improve computer education

From an article in today's Courier Times . . .

At last month's meeting, board member William O'Connor said he won't support any budget proposal that lacks a significant upgrade to the computer education curriculum for the district's elementary schools. He estimates the revamped curriculum could cost upward of $800,000.
Although Computer Lab is on the schedule for all elementary schools at all grade levels, O'Connor said that isn't enough.

"Right now, our curriculum for elementary students is to teach keyboarding and basic computer skills and that's really focused at the fourth and fifth grade levels," O'Connor said Wednesday.

"Before last year we did not have any elementary computer curriculum."

He said the issue came to his attention after talking with parents and middle school teachers. Many parents contacted him by e-mail, he said, to express disappointment in the computer learning programs.

Middle schools in the district are forced to spend time teaching students rudimentary computer skills that should have already been covered in the elementary grades, according to O'Connor.

"Part of the middle school curriculum is to give assignments that involve Internet research and writing papers," he added. "This is in place with the assumption that the students already know how to do these basic functions such as searches and power point presentations. Because the kids learn this on their own at home, they end up coming to class with different levels of experience and skill."

You can read the entire article by clicking here.


KClarinet said...

(Apologies for a longish post - but I haven't written much lately so I have some space saved up.)

I agree with you in principle. But without knowing how you arrived at the $800K cost, I'd suspect you're too low. And the only source of the funds you suggest is reduced labor costs via a lower-cost teacher contract. I know how much overpaid and greedy the teachers are (in the popular opinion) and how focused nearly everyone is on saving money in the next contract - we've hashed and rehashed that ad nauseum here. But you begin down a very slippery slope when you expect every initiative, every new approach, however educationally important, to be funded out of reductions in teacher compensation.

There's really nothing wrong with having the middle school teachers who rely on the students' having computer skills teach those skills to them. If those particular skills you mention in the article (PowerPoint presentation and searches) aren't needed in the elementary schools (as apparently they aren't currently), then why, if necessary, shouldn't the middle school teachers expect to teach those skills themselves before asking the students to use them?

Again, I agree 100% that in the best of all possible worlds computer skills should be taught as early as possible in a developmentally appropriate way. This being less than the best of all possible worlds, I'm just not sure it's currently a realistic goal.

srodos said...

Thank you Mr. O'Connor. I am grateful that you are standing up for better computer education in the elementary schools. It is time for NSD to lead the way and not follow behind. It is an extremely small part of the budget (less than one half of one percent) to invest in the future of the children in elementary school.
Unfortunately the rewards of this investment will only be observed when the students are older. However it is an investment nevertheless, and one that would be well received by parents and students.

finance-101 said...

I agree with Rodos. Money well spent.
I have a degree in computer science. The field has changed more than any other field and still
continues to change rapidly.

So obviously, any curriculum that is in place will be obsolete in a few years.
I think a few years ago we had a board member talking about keeping floppy disks
and dial-up modems around to save money.

O'Connor is correct.
We are teaching things in middle school that are grammer school skills.

I would be in favor of paying for equipment and extra staff to move Neshaminy ahead of other districts.
Computers give students skills that branch into every single field.

We are in a different world now.
It is so hard to find a job, that I would want my child to have every edge possible in finding employment.
Any courses that gives a kid that edge, is money well spent.
The most important course(s) a child can take today is computers, writing and independent living which focuses on money management, communication and every day modern life skills.

Izzy said...

You are completely right about our computer Ed program. I only question at which level, elementary or middle school , the computer Ed program should improve. What is the purpose of keyboarding at the middle school level. (useless according to my students) Shouldn't basic keyboarding , search , Internet safety begin at elementary level and the more advanced skills using programs like power point and excel begin at the middle school level. The expectation that sixth graders be prepared to present PowerPoint is unrealistic. Significant improvement should be made to the computer Ed program but at the middle school level .