Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Haves/Have Nots

So how do you support the "haves" and "have nots" in education?

I am lucky.  I have a job.  My wife has a job too (mostly to support my teaching habit!)  We support our kids and get them the tools they need and want.  Be it band instruments, shin pads for soccer, clothing, computers and internet, food, educational experiences.  That's the way it is supposed to work in a nuclear family.

So how do we support the kids that don't have all that going for them?

In band, we do that with fund raising for scholarships and school owned instruments.  We have a school that owns some of the more expensive instruments (tubas, French horns, etc.) and we loan them to students.  (Again, I am lucky.)  We also direct people to stores that have affordable rent-to-own type plans.  Eventually we get everyone who wants to play connected to an instrument.

We make it work in band. We muddle through and I don't think we have too many falling through the cracks. We have students and families who can afford just about anything.  We also have families that are struggling to get by.

I wonder if the district I am in is paralyzed by having a wide margin between the haves and have nots.  Especially when it comes to technology.  What do you do to put technology (computers in particular) in school?  It would be very easy to have people bring their own,  It would be very nice to have everyone working with the same school-bought machines too.  The decision would be very easy to make, if everyone was in the same financial boat.  Have a lot of "have nots"?  Go with the school purchased plan.  Everyone is well-off?  Bring your own.  Mixed?  Good luck and prepare to do some muddling.

I think we could go with a "bring your own device" plan tomorrow, but can we afford to have some students left behind in this way?  A district buying it all to create a one to one plan with a big school purchase for everyone plan probably won't fly either.  (Although, we haven't been asking anyone to fund this plan.  Maybe it would.)

What about "bring your own device" situations?  This may be the plan that finally gets technology pervasively in the classroom.  This isn't issue free.  People will have to realize that the tech support isn't going to be the school's problem.  Support will be too hard with the variety of devices out there.  I would be a little concerned that people would also wonder why we aren't supplying the tools kids need... "If it is that important, why isn't the school buying one for my kid?"

Labs.  In my experience, this is what's in place now.  Going to the computer lab makes technology seem like some kind of special occasion.  The lab really isn't the real world we are supposed to be preparing kids for.  Technology is everywhere in the real world now.  I cannot think of one job that doesn't have some part of it influenced by digital technology.  Special occasion?  Really?  I think that kids need to learn how to use machines to solve problems in all areas now, with labs there is an element of spontaneity that just isn't there.

I would think you would want all students to have equal access and some sort of standard device. This happens with a true One to One device program. "Standard" makes it easier for teachers to teach.  It is also easier for tech support to deal with issues and  I believe that teachers are first line tech support and then issues move up to typically under-staffed and over-worked tech support people.  With everyone on the same device common problems pop-up and once a solution is found it gets used repeatedly.  "Standard" helps.

Back to the question of "If it is that important, why isn't the school buying one for my kid?"  Others will be wondering why we are buying for kids that can afford their own.  Especially if parents can afford better devices than the school supplies.

So how do you get devices into the classroom?  Yes, we need devices soon.  If we don't we will have this transition happen to us.  What happens when the book publishing (on paper) business goes away?  Don't think the clock isn't ticking on that one, when was the last time you went to the record store?  Books are next.

Any ideas?


Jude said...

As a single parent, I've been poor forever--or at least since 1999. I bought my kids instruments through those generous rental programs you're talking about, trading up to higher quality instruments after the first ones were paid off. I did it partly through tax refunds (the government pays you if you're working poor with kids). We've juggled numerous needs--for dental care, braces, shoes, clothing, eyeglasses (and now contacts), lessons, and yes, laptop computers--buying one at a time, sometimes years apart. The braces were purchased on an interest-free installment plan. So yes, you can expect poor people to purchase items like those. An interest-free or very low-interest installment plan would work. The main thing is to establish the vision and the expectations, then to offer alternatives.

Roger Whaley said...

Vision, expectations and alternatives. Well said!

Then the next step for the district I am working in would be to communicate the vision.

You have got me thinking. Thanks!