• main June 2017
  • Executive View

    "A Well-Educated Mind Will Always Have More Questions Than Answers."

                                                                                           -Helen Keller                                                  

    Over the past few weeks, I enjoyed reading the following articles in The New York Times:

    How Google Took Over the Classroom

    The tech giant is transforming public education with low-cost laptops and free apps. But schools may be giving Google more than they are getting.

    By Natasha Singer May 13, 2017

    The Silicon Valley Billionaires Remaking America’s Schools

    By Natasha Singer June 6, 2017

    Helen Keller’s quote is an excellent summation of my response to these thought-provoking articles. Simply stated, education, technology and finances are an interesting mix of disciplines. As individual fields of study operating in their respective silos, people have a strong and powerful understanding of their products, devices and services. It is when their goals and business objectives cross boundaries that areas begin to blur and become distorted. 

    We all can concur that technology is changing how teachers instruct and students learn. The days of "chalk and talk" alone are over. Technology advancements are coming at us quickly, and we, as school leaders, have adapted accordingly to ensure that our children can remain globally competitive in today’s world – and tomorrow’s.  Personalization of learning will be driven rapidly by software algorithms that assess student progress and adjust learning tasks to one’s interest and capability, embedding visual and auditory stimulation.

    And yes, it is true, "technology giants have begun remaking the very nature of schooling on a vast scale, using some of the same techniques that have made their companies linchpins of the American economy."

    We must question, however, if the significant loss of individual privacy and the sharing of personal information accruing to the financial benefit of the technology giants is too great a price to be paid for these technology advances.

    Google set up a team in 2013 to create apps specifically for schools, much as Apple marketed personal computers to schools in its genesis, presumably both hoping to gain lifelong subscribers to their brands. "Code.org, a major nonprofit group financed with more than $60 million from Silicon Valley luminaries and their companies, has the stated goal of getting every public school in the United States to teach computer science. It has also helped more than 120 districts to introduce such curriculums, the group said, and has facilitated training workshops for more than 57,000 teachers. And Code.org’s free coding programs, called Hour of Code, have become wildly popular, drawing more than 100 million students worldwide.”

    These examples beg these questions: Are the tech organizations crossing boundaries of personal privacy to their benefit? Do the benefits outweigh the risk? Are there controls that can guarantee security with the use of these technologies? 

    We can see controversies playing out right now with edTPA, a complex sixty-page portfolio submission for teacher candidates created at Stanford University by a sub-division called SCALE and administered and graded by Pearson. Some school districts are refusing to admit student teachers over privacy concerns of student data and images due to the requirement for 20 minutes of video of the practitioner teaching students which is submitted to Pearson for scoring.

    Clearly, technology is not without its challenges. Chief education officers are all wrestling with the same issues, from getting up to speed on new software and hardware; to the changing role of teachers as educational facilitators; to staff limitations with the next level of technology; to 1:1 computing; to personalized learning; and to maintaining student and staff confidentiality.

    Some might think the main impediment to equipping all schools with technology is cost. That is a significant factor; however, it’s less of a hindrance for some districts than you might expect.

    Regardless of who/what is the driving force, our task, as educators, is to teach 21st-century skills to students who will be working in jobs that we can’t even imagine right now. Minimizing technology in their instruction does them a disservice. Which brings us this question - What will New Jersey’s public schools look like in the next decade and beyond? New Jersey’s chief education officers have a vision that will keep its public schools on top and enable students to effectively compete on a global employment stage. It’s rare that we will find educators, politicians and parents in agreement on how to move forward. This lack of agreement can put our students at risk and jeopardize everything we’ve achieved. 

    Here’s where we all agree – There’s a great potential for us to do more with technology. The Association’s Vision 2020 Plan calls for creating a world-class educational experience where technologies are seamlessly integrated to provide a broad range of tools that can be used for teaching and learning within the walls of school and beyond. Success will be realized through strong leadership and continued transformation in our classrooms, assessment standards, culture, and learning environment. We must work to ensure that each child in New Jersey receives an education that prepares him for his future, not for the world of their parents’ past.