Saturday, March 7, 2009

Smartboards: High-tech tool...or just something to stick papers on?

On Thursday night the school board convened a special "working" session jointly with the Community Engagement Task Force (CETF) to discuss the process for future boundary changes and how to engage the community as part of that process.

The members in attendance were broken down into 2 groups for separate brainstorming sessions. The format of these brainstorming sessions was to go down the line and ask for "bullet" points (limited to 7 words) to identify critical boundary criteria or steps to consider during the process.

A person was chosen from each group to jot down these "bullets" on large "sticky note" style 2' x 3" flipchart pages. Even more shocking was the fact that the SMARTboard was merely used as a "wall" on which the sticky sheets could be attached (see picture from the meeting below).

Now...why on earth wouldn't they have used the fancy new "Smart"board that has been installed in the district office? OK...they could say that they had 2 groups and only one SMARTboard mounted. C'mon! We just funded this district with enough referendum dollars to equip EACH classroom in the new Creekside elementary and EACH classroom in the new high school with these technological innovations. The district and board have also committed to placing these in every classroom. They make SMARTboards on wheels. Are you telling us you don't have access to a mobile SMARTboard.

Why NOT showcase this technology for the public? These SMARTboards also have optical character recognition (OCR) software that would have enabled the district secretary to simply convert the handwritten "bullets" into text which could then have been used to generate minutes. At the bare minimum, the information could have been captured electronically to cut out the time it willk take to later transcribe these into a word processor. Using this technology would also have enabled the groups to very quickly sort the resultant phrases and even combine one or more like ideas.

The district invested a great deal of time to develop training sessions so that teachers could make full use of these devices. Is this yet another case of what's good for the goose is beyond the capability of the gander? Or just another in a series of poor decisions. And why didn't even a single board member, who voted to purchase these SMARTboards for its "Classroom 2010" project even THINK to say, "Hey....Dr. you think that maybe we should make use of these cool SMARTboards?"

Here's what really irks us: we have these boards mounted in every classroom in Creekside, yet at least EIGHT classrooms are not even being used because the school is only half full. Trumping that is the fact that we have teachers that ARE technologically proficient and would kill for one of these SMARTboards. Instead, they aren't even allowed to purchase a projector so they can project a PC display on the wall....even when they offer to pay for most of it out of their pocket!!!!

We've spent over $50,000 of taxpayer dollars for this "BoardDocs", whose utility could easily be replaced by a decent website. On Monday (3/9) the board will approve spending $10,000 so the district can participate in a the local JEDI virtual school consortium.....something that we have no idea whether it will serve even a handful of students. How about forgoing the virtual school and instead purchasing 5 or 6 mobile SMARTboards for teachers across the district?

When are we going to stop throwing money at gimmicks and get the funding to the teachers...who will actually utilize in in enhancing the educational experience of our children?