Maggie Makes Four!

This journal started off documenting the adoption of our youngest daughter. It now follows the twist and turns of our lives as we raise these two amazing little creatures into the best women they can become.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Rest of the Story

I’m sure there are many people reading this and worried about what I’m going to write. My blog post on the grant at my school raised a few eyebrows and tonight I’m going to write, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story.

Last Friday, the principal and district officials were generous enough with their time to meet with me regarding my concerns on the grant. Given we were never going to agree on the intent of the grant, I asked them questions about the process used to select how the grant would be used and how exactly the implementation would be executed.

Everyone I met with concurred that no alternatives to a “pilot” smart classroom were considered. At one point, someone said that no alternatives were offered, but none were solicited. The grant’s dispensation strategy was never reviewed with staff or parents in a discussion format before it was decided and therefore, no one knew alternatives could be offered. No one can say why this is the best alternative for our school. No one can say why dividing the grant 60% into one class and 40% to the rest of the school is the optimal spend split. Essentially, this decision has no strategy behind it.

The Smart Classroom has been dubbed a “pilot”. This means it’s the administration’s intent to roll this out to every classroom at our school. According to district officials, “pilots” need a champion and it would be too difficult to train multiple staff members on the use of this equipment in a shared environment. Therefore, it needs to be in a single classroom with a single champion.

I’ve run a couple of pilots in my day, and the power user scenario is often helpful. But I’ve also run pilots with multiple users and found this information very valuable. If the technology is too difficult to use for the average user, adoption rates are very low. Best to discover an adoption problem during a pilot phase rather than during implementation phase in my experience. Besides if the plan is to roll this out to all classrooms, shouldn’t as many teachers as possible use it to help support the roll out efforts?

“Pilots” in the business world are often used to prove an assumption. We can save so many dollars by making a change or we can make more money by doing it that way. You need to have before data and after data to prove these assumptions, and you need to be able to demonstrate something worked before budget is allotted for full implementation. At least this is my experience with pilots. When I asked about the “pilot” process in education, the answers were vague. The key educational benefit: interactivity, capturing kids at teachable moments. Applications? The technology could be used to assist in science lessons. Examples of lessons: no examples could be offered. There was a timeline, but no real methodology behind measuring success and no one supervising results outside of the grant recipient.

The next round of funding was another question mark for me. Corporations were one answer. We live in a wealthy suburb with schools that rank in the top 10% of the state ( To implement smart classrooms in one school of 28 classrooms it would take about $420K. If a corporation had that much money to spend, do people honestly think they’d spend it in a district like ours? In my experience, corporations want to see big results for the dollars they spend. District like ours do not allow for big results. We’re already successful. The other answer I heard was the PTA. Our PTA is a dedicated group of individuals who do amazing things for our school, but even a city-wide fundraising campaign only raised $355K for ALL elementary schools last year. To assume a parent group can raise $400K is unfair to those dedicated parents that pour their heart and souls into our school community day in and day out.

Finally, no money was set aside to maintain this system or buy replacement parts. The school will be handing hand held devices to 6 year olds and expecting them not to break those devices. I have two very mellow daughters, and things get broken. I can’t imagine any hand-held devices will last long in a classroom setting with young kids. So, things are going to be broken and there will be no budget to replace them. That means the teacher will be hitting up parents or the PTA for money to maintain this pilot or it will become an expensive piece of classroom furniture within the next 18 months.

I’m a big fan of technology in the classroom. And I might be a big fan of Smart Technology at our school had this project been thought through. However, I can not support a project that is exclusionary with very little strategy behind it. In this case, the use of this grant is a big mistake. And sadly, no one in my meetings last week was willing to admit it or do anything to help correct it. And that’s the rest of the story.


  • At 1:17 AM , Blogger Marci said...

    It seems like an odd strategy given the current budget crisis in the district. However, we have smart classrooms in our school and I love them! (as do the kids) Of course, there is plenty of budget for IT support and maintenance, though.


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