A few weeks ago I received a request from the local school district to fill out an online survey that was focused on the use of technology in our elementary schools. This followed an event at my son's elementary school that was an opportunity for parents to see how the school planned to make use of modern technologies in it's educational curriculum.
The evenings presentations were orchestrated by Ted Lai, the Director of Technology and Media Services for Fullerton School District, who had been guiding several programs that had children as young as Kindergarten and First Grade creating media as part of their education. Of course, this appealed to me immensely. As a media creator myself I totally appreciate the value storytelling has in society, and am very excited kids are getting a chance to discover this for themselves. The fact that they are getting hands on with visual media and the technology used to create it at an early age feels like a bold step forward. It makes me feel grateful to be a part of this community that is enabling this program. I really hope these ideas go somewhere, as the plans outlined sounded a lot like the kind of education I would like my kid to enjoy.
The evening was used as part of a fundraiser to provide for technology purchases for the school, and gave parents and kids together a chance to sample some of the tools the school and Ted Lai are aiming to use. We tried iPad's loaded with apps to engage the kids in Math, Animation, Storytelling. Even Angry Birds was demonstrated for its benefit to understanding geometric angles. Then we moved into the lab where the kids were building PowerPoint and Keynote presentations. The presentations were used to display information learned about trees and plants. The aim is for the kids to learn as they play, that they absorb the information almost without them knowing it.
Naturally, after the evenings series of presentations I was wildly excited about my sons future at the school and the opportunities he'll have to use creative visual communication as part of his everyday schooling. It set my mind thinking about all the cool things the school could do. And then, the invitation to offer my thoughts on the subject fell into my email inbox. I was asked, if I were Principal, what technology choices would I make. My suggestions I have copied below. It will be interesting to see if any are adopted and what else the school district comes up with. I worry though that educational funding being what it is during this financial malaise if good plans and intentions will come to nought if there is no budget.
If I were Principal my suggestions are these. Start a school blog, to open up bi-directional communication between faculty, parents and students. Each class or classroom will have one or two designated 'student journalists' that will have access to login credentials for that week. They are free and encouraged to post pictures, texts, videos, reports about issues they are concerned with, school or otherwise.
An open comment system will foster a healthy debate and free thinking community. Each child will have an ID that is linked to them throughout school that they will login to the system with. If any child is reported or caught posting inappropriate or inflammatory or trolling, they will be dealt with the same way discipline is carried out in the offline world; detention, suspension or expulsion. Good digital citizenry can be learned here.
The blog would be the hub for an open and transparent communication platform.
As Principal I would make my weekly address, via live streaming video, and archived for on-demand consumption. Special events would be covered here, again via live streaming, video archiving, journalistic reports, moderated by parent/teacher team and executed by students. Once a month a live stream video Q&A session would be conducted by me, The Principal, with any parent or student interested.