Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Appeal to Readers

Throughout the last month, a very significant number of visits have been made via particularly for the post Common Questions About the Common Core Standards.

Might someone do me the favor of providing the specific link that has created this trafficI would like to know for the obvious reason of being able to shape content that would appeal to this readership.  If so, please inform me with an email to

Thank you for your cooperation.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Q & A with Charlie Kyte, MN School Administrators Executive Director

Introduction: MPR's Midday with Gary Eichten featured a 6/6/11 interview with Charlie Kyte, an 11-year Executive Director for the Minnesota Association of School Administrators-- and former superintendent, principal & teacher-- who is retiring at the end of the summer.  Topic-by-topic, Kyte's answers are available for your review.  Click here for the full audio interview.

Charlie Kyte, MN Association of School Administrators
Q: How good are the schools in Minnesota?

A: That deserves a more complex answer than "they're great or they're bad".  On a national level, MN ranks right up among the top states in the country (with Massachusetts and North Carolina).  MN schools are really pretty good.  We have struggled mightily having our children living in poverty not doing as well as they should.  This is an issue our schools have to address but also one our society has to address.  We've been pretty good at concentrating our poorest people where there's not much opportunity.

On a global level, some of the emerging countries' students (e.g. United Kingdom,  Finland & Scandinavian countries, Asia) are racing ahead of our students.  China, for instance, has so many able children (China's top 10% of students number more than all U.S. students combined) and a system that invests heavily in them.  They (China) don't do such a good job of educating their less able children.  But we've got a real problem there ... on a global level, we need to keep ramping up and doing better.  On a state level, we have to recognize, we don't really have all that many students, and we have to have our poorer students, as well as our best students, excelling.  But don't listen to people who say, "it's all gone to heck in a handbasket," because that's just not true.

Q: What about the achievement gap ... this has been a problem that has been talked about 'seemingly forever' ... why has so little progress been made on the achievement gap?

A: The progress cannot be made by one entity.  The churches, the public schools, and the employers can't step in alone and do this. There needs to be a wider effort by everybody.  Every once in awhile, we'll see a school overcome this problem for two or three years, but trying to overcome the achievement gap on a large scale is difficult.  And I'll just say one other thing: I know of and have worked with a family of very poor means and upper class means ... The difference in opportunity (and messages) is that kids can get is huge ... but this is not an excuse for schools not to do the very best they can with students.

Q: Do you think education policy is largely determined by education fad or research?

A:  Some are and some aren't -- we moved from a time when every teacher in every classroom was creating their own curriculum.  While everybody meant well, it was a hodge-podge.  In the last 10 years, MN has become part of the standards movement ... what students should learn in math, reading and science at each age level.  We're applying those widely so teachers know what to expect of students. That standards movement is a good thing ...  Now we're talking about  broadening the standards across the United States-- trying to equalize them a bit-- this a good thing so long as you are working the standards upward and not going to a common denominator.

On the other hand, there are a lot of things that do come and go.  Some of it is experimentation ... one of the things I get a little frustrated about is I think that schools should be allowed to experiment & innovate more without having so much pressure to determine that thing is absolutely the long-term, right thing to do.  I've watched teachers in my career trying to figure out how to educate kids ... when it works, we just do it and don't even tell anybody about.  When it doesn't, we discard it and try something else.   It seems now that everything we new do has a legislative action attached to it, and a media fro-foo-rah ... and the stakes become too large in terms of whether you're successful or not.

Q: How do our best students do compared to the best students in other countries?

A:  One of the concerns many educators have today is that we have put so much effort into trying to address the needs of our lagging learners & addressing the achievement gap, that we have moved resources & energy away from educating our very best kids.  While we do a reasonable job of that, we think there is potential to have our very best students do significantly better.

We have had an explosion in the number of Advanced Placement courses and college credit in our high schools.  There are some concerned that's not quite rigorous enough, but it's certainly more rigorous than I saw in my days as an educator.  So we're moving towards more rigorous education for students, but there is more to be done here.  We have young men and women, elementary age and middle school age, who could be doing significantly more than we're asking them to do.  I think that is something, that .... as a nation, we've really got to address.

Q: On the other hand, you hear that there is such intense pressure with tests, tests, and more tests, what about that aspect of the situation?

A. There is some stress and pressure, but I'm not so sure we don't over blow that a little bit.  I look at it this way, when I was in school .... I thought it was my job to do the very best I could.  My parents brought me up to work hard, and my expectation, if  I were back running a school district, would be to say that it's every student's job to make the absolute best use of the resources that we as a society are pouring into those schools.  I think teachers get frustrated when they're working hard and the students aren't with them.

Q:  Is more money part of the answer to (education's challenges)?  Question arose after an extensive section on the woes of single parent living.

A.  Yes it is.  You have to make some ongoing investments to keep even, and secondly you need to make some strategic investments.  This last legislative session was an opportunity squandered ... and maybe it will still (work out) ... if there's an agreement to put more money into education, I would just say "put the money where it makes a difference" and all the research says put more money so there's kindergarten for all children and preschool education, and frankly if you could back up so there's a little bit of education when they're in day care, you'd be money ahead.

Q: Caller-- Schools are not designed to teach students to learn but they are designed to teach students what to learn (this is an inherent flaw in the school system)If you want to see what a system's intention is, look at its output.  The public schools are designed (or at least what you can see from the design) that children of color fail.  Those two things need to be taken into consideration.

A: That's actually a good set of comments ... we agree there is some design flaw, and one of the things we (superintendents of schools all over the state) have been trying to do, and we've been saying that we need to be more innovative in how we design our schools, and we need to be more output driven.  We need to be creating circumstances where children want to learn and to learn well.  As a consequence to that, we pushed through a bill that said, let some small group of districts get together, have the rules waived, and let them innovate.  But in the end, that scares people who want to preserve the status quo, and that was one of the things  cited by the governor as a reason for vetoing one of the bills.  We still think that's a pretty good idea, and we don't think our students are going to walk over the fallen bodies of our teachers, they're going to work with our teachers, and maybe, over time, we could bring some of that to scale and do a better job not only with our high potential learners but also with some of those kids who are struggling.

Q:  Government shutdown looms, and at what point will this really start hitting schools in Minnesota?

A: We've already advised our superintendents to have three sets of contingency plans.  One, if this is settled by the end of June and there is an agreement, the plan is to keep operating the way you are.  Second is if we get a mid-term shutdown (say July) and the third plan is if this thing drags on for 5 or 6 months.  Three things come into play here: (1) state Dept of Education has to figure out how much money each school districts get each month in state payments.  Last time we had a government shutdown, the top Dept of Finance people were declared as essential employees.  This year there is question if those people will be considered essential, which could result in some payroll & cash flow issues for superintendents. (2) At MDE, Division of Licensing will not be an essential function of the state, so new licenses or renewals will not be fulfilled, and we might get to the start of the school year where we have unlicensed teachers come next fall.  (3) MDE issues an annual report to each school midsummer on what they can levy to their local taxpayers.  And the school (district) has to have hearings and they send back to MDE saying what they intend to levy.  That might sound good for local taxpayers, but this process is quite complicated and once you close this down, you can't just have people come back and take care of 350 school districts over night.  It takes time. Maybe it's going to take some pain to get the warring partners to work together. 

Q: Caller:  One of my big beefs is that kids don't know all that much about history (or civics).  Examples provided about the lack of knowledge in knowing which nations fought to gain independence and young voter apathy.  We could integrate history into all our classes through an integrated trial like Sandra Day O'Connor has suggested. Is history getting shortchanged?

A: When we started with the No Child Left Behind Act, we overplayed reading and math to the expense of other subjects.  The schools have recognized that and are trying to equalize that back, so we aren't shorting the other subjects dramatically.  But for every (subject) area, the schools are given a fairly limited amount of time to educate children, and there's a lot on our plate-- reference to the bullying initiative that MPR helped highlight recently.

The one comment I'd make about history (applicable at the collegiate and k-12 levels): Too often too many students are encouraged to MEMORIZE rather than to INTERNALIZE.

If you go through school and you just memorize all the facts about the Civil War, take the test,  and then you forget about it, you're right you've forgotten your history. After Kyte responded to Eichten assertion that this has always been the case (fact learning & forgetting) ... Yes, it has always been the case, but we also see really creative teachers who really help students try to live it and help them understand more.

Q: Caller-- How come there is so little consideration given to administratively merging districts (i.e. driving costs down to get more money to instructional level)?

A: Suburban districts really need to be their own "unit" administratively (like Lakeville and Farmington). In western MN where districts are smaller, they're doing quite a bit of that.  More districts are sharing superintendents and HR Directors ... Fergus Falls, for instance, is doing the business functions for 4 or 5 districts.  

Q: Is local control still the gold standard for education in Minnesota?

A: My good friends at the School Boards Association will probably cringe as I say this, because they believe strongly in local control.  I am having my doubts.  Having been my whole career in this business, and while certainly there should be a local voice, I think local control gets in the way of progress fairly often.  Too many communities  & folks in the governing structure want their schools to be what they were, not what they should be becoming.  We need to find some ways to help districts come together to innovate more and be more progressive.  I'm not saying local control is terrible, I don't think we should be relying just on local control anymore.

Q: Should we get the schools out of the business of providing extracurriculars-- specifically athletics like in other countries?

 A: I'll probably have to slink out of here as I say this, but sometimes I think athletics is the tail wagging the dog, because sometimes it gets in the way of doing the right things for schools.  That said, we have built over a 100 years this elaborate intertwining of our k-12 systems and our sports systems in our communities.  The facilities are built and owned by the schools.  In Canada, the sports facilities are owned by the city governments, and education belongs to the schools. But it's not as easy as just waving a magic wand and having all that tradition go away.  (Sports) do offer opportunities to become team players, become competitive in a healthy way, and it helps to keep quite a few students who might otherwise say, forget this history and reading stuff.

Q: Re: teacher evaluation.  Does the education system know how to accurately evaluate teachers? 

A:  I think our record is very chequered.  I can bring you out to school districts like Austin, Albert Lea, and Orono-- where they have people, in a very sophisticated fashion, evaluating their teachers.  I can also bring you to schools I won't mention, where almost no evaluation occurs whatsoever.  It's our opinion as an association, and it's my personal opinion, that says there needs to be a law on the books saying there needs to be a reasonable way of evaluating our people .... This has been a big argument over at the Legislature this year with two competing bills .... one came out of the Chamber of Commerce, and that bill was an overreach, in my opinion, that ultimately would not be legally defensible.  On the other hand, there was a bill that likely came out of the Unions, and to me, seemed like it had a lot of unnecessary negotiation & a lot of cost, and frankly not really one to get the job done when you have poor performing folks.  There needs to be a middle ground, and I'm still hoping the Governor and Legislature can adopt some language that makes good sense.

Now another issue is: should you tie teacher evaluations to teacher performance?  One bill said 50% of an evaluation should be tied to it, while the other said nothing.  While we need to build in some level of student performance, you don't want to define it as a set thing, because it's different for certain subjects and at different ages ...  You also don't want to squeeze the creative teacher out of the system and just get rote type teachers who are just about helping students get good test scores.

Q: Too much testing?

A: Minnesota duplicates a lot of testing.  Many schools use what's called the NWEA test.   This helps know where kids are at, and to correct their learning.  Then we have a one-time state test, which costs about $25 million per year to administer, and helps rank the schools.  I actually said to Gov. Pawlenty when he was in office, "Governor, why don't you take the testing data we already have, pull it uphill to the Dept of Education and analyze it ... get out of the testing business and get into the analysis business ... you can do that for about $5 million a year, still figure out who is doing well and doing poor, and you freed up about 1/2 dozen days so we can educate the kids again.

Kyte's final comment: The great majority of educators (superintendents, principals, teachers, and custodians) they're working hard doing they best they can, and sometimes under real difficult conditions.  If you have children in school, this a time to say to a teacher Thanks-- we appreciate your work .... they would absolutely like a positive reinforcement.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

"Eich" Turns the Page on Her Mounds View Schools Music Career

"Music, for me, has always been a place where anything is possible-- a refuge, a magical world where anyone can go, where all kinds of people can come together, and anything can happen. We are limited only by our imaginations." 

Watch & listen to  an Eicher-led kindergarten graduation.

Buffie Eicher's education career for Mounds View Public Schools is testament to the idea that mottos matter.  Over 35 years since joining the Bel Air Elementary staff in 1976, Eicher has expanded the musical horizons of students, colleagues and community members in her employed and in her spare time-- be it by helping elementary schoolers advance through a series of 17 belts on the Recorder Karate or by recruiting tenors to round out a local community choir.

This 2010-11 school year will be her last working for Independent School District 621 as she transitions to retirement.

Students & staff first describe her teaching style as one involving crystal clear expectations, and second, as "fun and awesome." Eicher also masterfully uses music instruction as a vehicle for teaching concert etiquette, everyday communication skills, and you might say--- helping students not develop the Midwestern malady of being "all work and no facial or physical expression" through music instruction.

In a society that features more than its share of professionally-produced & digitally-delivered sound, people can either forget, or be intimidated by, the notion of creating their own song.  Buffie Eicher's classroom, however, is one where everyone participates.

"Whether I am walking into her room, or just walking by her class, I am immediately pulled into any activity she has planned," said Todd Durand, Island Lake Elementary principal regarding the approach of the school's music specialist.  "I have hopped, skipped, sung, and danced with students from Kindergarten to fifth grade due to Buffie's insistence that music is a participatory process."

The musical activities of Eicher's classroom include singing, dancing, playing assorted percussion instruments, studying the art forms of The Nutcracker, and the student-motivating Recorder Karate competition.  Influencing that instruction is a set of musical preferences ranging from the serious & classical to the playful a capella of Tonic Sol-fato ...  artists as comfortably old as Elvis and as contemporary as the multi-genred Grant Dawson
Veterans Day Concert Tradition

 Eicher will support future Veterans Day Concerts in a new role.
Eicher's shining example of viewing music as a participatory process is the annual Veterans Day concert she organizes and leads for 4th and 5th graders.  In a tradition that grew from her service as the Mounds View High School choir director, this signature effort accomplishes various things: recognizing the unheralded work of veterans from the six military branches (Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marines, and Merchant Marines), giving students performance opportunities in singing and speaking, and supplying edifying history lessons to students, families, and friends.

The 2010 edition of the program, for instance, provided a set of speakers who took time to explain the story behind Yankee Doodle, which originated as a British song written to ridicule Americans for the quality of their dress when compared to the finery of the Brits.

During this section, concert attendees learned the answer to the song's entirely explainable question: "Why did Yankee Doodle stick a feather in his hat and call it macaroni?"  Turns out, macaroni is not "what you thought it was." Rather than being the culinary variety, macaroni was a dandy style of British fashion the song lyrics pooh-poohed the Colonials for not having. The frontier folk did get the last laugh when they co-opted the song to celebrate their country-bumpkin look after finally turning back the British forces.

Above all else, the Eicher-led Veterans Day productions have been about 'seeing the sacrifice' of the 24 million veterans of the United States Armed Forces, 1.7 million of whom are living. To that end, the effort involves a research project for Island Lake students who survey their familial connections for veterans, 500 of which were identified in the last concert.

"She believes strongly in making sure students understand the responsibilities they have as citizens of The United States of America," said fellow teacher Mike Lundberg, who is on the Island Lake specialist team with Eicher.

"Her Veterans Day concert was phenomenal ... and though we were touched by how much it affected our Veterans, I was always struck more by how much our students learned about our country, history, patriotism, service, and gratitude," added Anne Nelson, whose information technology instruction crosscut with Eicher's work.

Eich's Teaching Stops

After graduating from Mounds View High School in 1972, Buffie Eicher, known by "Eich" to some colleagues, obtained a music education license from the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities in 1976.  From there, her career journey wound closely around the place she had always called home.  In addition to the Masters Degree she also earned from the University of Minnesota in 1984, stops along the way included: 

Bel Air Elementary 1976-1981
Chippewa Middle School 1981 -1982
Island Lake Elementary 1982 -1983
Pike Lake Elementary 1984-1992 
Chippewa/Highview Middle School 1993
Highview Middle School 1993-1996
Mounds View High School 1996 - 2001
Valentine Hills Elementary 2001- 2002
Mounds View High School  2002 -2004
Island Lake Elementary  2005 - 2011

Of these, her final stint was perhaps most meaningful.  Buffie herself attended Island Lake in grades K-3, and her two kids were students there as well.  Just in case you don't believe it can get any more heartwarming than that, consider this reflection from Island Lake teacher, Jacki Harren, a current colleague of Eicher's who sends her fourth graders to Buffie's music class every week:

"I was one of her fortunate students back in 1976 at Bel Air Elementary.  During her first year there, she encouraged me to join her choir.  This encouragement sparked a love for music and I have enjoyed singing in choirs ever since!  Later on, I began MY teaching career with her at Pike Lake and now it has come full-circle." 

Careers of 35 years can sure contain amazing private stories ... Here are Eicher's public sentiments on her time at Island Lake:

"Some of my favorite memories of Island Lake include our all school holiday sing alongs, the World’s Largest Concerts-- which included having our 2005 school year fifth graders included in the national broadcast-- the excitement of Recorder Karate, and of course, the Veterans Day programs."

What's Next?

While out birding, Eicher framed an Osprey during a recent trip to Duluth.
Retirement should bring no crying for Buffie Eicher :-)  She plans to continue her involvement in musical endeavors par excellence, as she is already at work planning a joint production of Island Lake musicians and the adult Two Rivers Chorale for the 11/11/11 Veterans Day production this November.

The next phase should supply plenty of time to don the maroon & gold (her second favorite set of school colors to Mounds View's) as she is a staunch Minnesota Gophers fan, particularly women's volleyball and tennis.  New to her set of favored institutions are DePaul University and the University of St. Thomas, where her daughter & son attend.

Her post-employment years may also provide more opportunity to practice her great sense of humor, and to move from the music hall into nature's sanctuary, where she enjoys spending time as a "birder."  Last fall, she adopted a peregrine falcon at Hawk Ridge in Duluth, which enabled her to tag, release and receive feedback about the bird afterwards, shared one of her new retirees-in-arms, Brenda Washburn, who worked alongside Eicher as a paraprofessional at Island Lake School.

And when not birding or playing her own game of tennis, Buffie just might be able to carve out some time for snowbirding at a Texas golf course community with her husband Gordie.

A Hearty Congratulations goes to Mrs. Eicher for an outstanding Mounds View music career!

"I hope that you will continue to keep music in your lives, because music really IS good for you! Play an instrument, go to concerts, sing along in the car, dance and revel in the beauty that music brings to our lives." --Buffie Eicher's parting note to Island Lake families.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Twists & Turns of In-School Technology

7/5/11 Turn: All of Korea's Textbooks to Go Online by 2015

6/9/11 Twist: Steve Nelson, Head of the Calhoun School in Manhattan, shares his digital reservations in this Huffington Post piece.

5/26/11 Twist: Check out Chronicle of Higher Education's 'Why Are So Many Students Still Failing Online'? for more fodder on the subject of appropriately matching courses to online learning offerings.

Judging from a recent Superintendent's Report provided by Mounds View Schools' Dan Hoverman about a twin city-wide Superintendent Technology Leadership Academy, Minnesota educators & students are living in "interesting times" with respect to the advance of technology in the state's public school classrooms.

According to the Association of Metropolitan School Districts leader consortia efforts Hoverman referred to, the day may soon arrive when online textbooks are common, hybrid classes are prolific, and handheld devices like iPADs and smartphones are encouraged-- not disallowed-- in schools' student codes of conduct.

In case you've been out of school for awhile, it's only taken about one generation for most classrooms to go from being technology-free to the juncture where superintendents are considering whether technology should be omnipresent in our schools. The first round of instructional monitors mounted in the classroom corner is long gone (deemed a failure by most) and have been wonderfully supplanted by a family of projection & interactive devices known as LCD monitors, DOC cameras, and Smartboards.  In addition, the "computer lab" has evolved from being hard-wired and location specific--  to a mobile set of laptops--  to one with WiFi zones that may soon allow student, staff and guests alike specially-authorized access into a school district's various data systems.

Interesting times, indeed, and based on educational leadership sessions like those of the Association of Metropolitan School District's Education in an Online World, the proverbial train is being thoughtfully guided from the instructional station of online learning.  But given the financial realities schools face and a system everyone at least complicitly agrees is "stuck" in an agrarian model with a school year shorter than those of most countries, might the times be a bit too interesting for our school communities' own good?

A "Wait a Minute" from Mr. Postman

Neil Postman hit the nail on the head in his 1995 book The End of Education. In a treatise all the more prophetic since most people had barely constructed their first email message at the time of its publication, he wrote:

The role that new technology should play in schools or anywhere else is something that needs to be discussed ...  In particular, the computer and its associated technologies are awesome additions to culture ...  But like all important technologies of the past, they are Faustian bargains, giving and taking away, sometimes in equal measure, sometimes more in one way than the other.  It is strange-- indeed shocking-- that we can still talk of new technologies as if they were unmixed blessings, gifts, as it were, from the gods.  Don't we all know what the combustion engine has done for us and against us?  What television is doing for us and against us?

At the very least, we need to discuss what we will lose if computer technology becomes a sole source of motivation, authority and psychological sustenance.  Will we become more impressed by calculation than human judgment?  Will speed of response become a defining quality of intelligence?  If the idea of school will be dramatically altered, what kinds of learning will be neglected?

These are serious matters ... and they need to be discussed by those whose vision of children's needs, and the needs of society, go beyond thinking of a school mainly as a place for the convenient distribution of information.  Schools are not now, and never have been chiefly about getting information to children. 

(End of Postman excerpt)

There are those who would rightfully "counter" Postman by asserting schools are not chiefly about creating more information access for students, although that is unquestionably a major product of the technological change schools may soon be endorsing.  In the estimation of many, schools are primarily about providing the constructs & inspiration for students to take charge of their own learning.  Programmes like International Baccalaureate are founded on this very precept, although principals, teachers, counselors, librarians and parents already know the huge challenge of transferring the responsibility for academic progress to students.

To the credit of educational developers behind Six Technologies Expected to Change Education, some of its near, mid, and long-term technologies are designed with the self-guided learner in mind-- particularly the learning analytics and personal learning environment tools.  But since educators and parents alike have been challenged enough in creating passion for learning with old-fashioned person to person communication, this question is worth asking: will all the time & expense that goes into the sophisticated learning analytics systems be well spent?

Wendy Kopp's Tale of Two Philadelphia Schools

As the founder of the Teach for America program that began in 1983, Wendy Kopp knows a thing or two about hoeing hard rows in the field of education.  In a book titled A Chance to Make History, Kopp chronicles the journey that the "Teach for America" corps has led in turning around urban schools across America.  Among her most telling anecdotes are two Philadelphia schools that are at opposite ends of the technology spectrum-- and the student performance index-- with the successful school being the one that is most technologically primitive.

Philadelphia's School of the Future-- Upon opening in 2006, a team of founding experts trumpeted this school as a revolution in education, with an approach that included laptops for every student, innovative scheduling, "21st century" course design, and online courses and resources.  But as Kopp asserts, at least one important thing was forgotten-- the failure to prioritize human capital that accounts for high-performing schools in low-income communities.  For when the school's 2009 Pennsylvania assessment results came out, the school's students registered dramatically lower scores in math, reading and science.  Kopp believes this state-of-the-art facility failed to outperform the schools it was meant to replace due to the absence of a transformative mission & the leadership, culture, effective management, and student supports to act on that mission.  To this state of deficiency, technology made matters worse by diverting the school's leaders from the core work that is responsible for creating strong schools.  And rather than moving the school environment in a direction more focused on learning, technology ended up increasing the chaos in an already under performing institution.

In a similar high-poverty location during the same time period, however, Kopp tells of an alternate educational enterprise:

Philadelphia's Mastery Network has transformed  previously low-performing, impoverished districts by dramatically outperforming districtwide averages & producing college-ready graduates-- and with little attention paid to technology.  In 2006, it's Shoemaker campus was a failing institution with abysmally low standardized scores in math and reading. But soon Mastery remade its mission, recruited new leadership & staff, created a system of roles & responsibilities for students, and built a network of support services into the school.

With these efforts, test scores increased 50 points in every subject, closed the school's achievement gap in reading, and resulted in 100% of its graduating class gaining acceptance to college.  Hear Scott Gordon, the network's founder: "Why are so many schools NOT focusing on talent development, great management, and clear goals? ... we have such a hard time doing what we know works."

In the view of Mastery's leaders and others, what works are the basics, and not an emphasis on technology.  Since they achieved such success in an environment similar to School of the Future's during the same time span, their example shows-- at a minimum-- that massive infusions of technology may not be for everyone.

A Conclusion

Do the Philadelphia examples mean that schools everywhere should abandon all forms of technology?  Of course not. What they do illustrate, however, is that the incorporation of technological devices is one can easily turn a do-able mission into a  managerial minefield-- first in the day-to-day function of the school in the form of fragmented attention spans, student equity and teacher training issues, and-- second in the difficult-to-maintain horizontal and vertical curricular designs that-- like it or not-- will always require a buffer to accommodate the latest idea De jure from "higher" educational authorities.

Add to these the complexities of how best to include families (who will likely be paying for the devices schools will be taking advantage of) as partners in opening up the widest learning horizon possible for their students.  Decision making accompanies ownership, do you copy?

On top of the age-old "he who has the gold makes the rules" issue, these devices will be used to help create more student-driven, beyond-the-classroom learning.  As educators everywhere legitimately cry foul of the forces attempting to create more narrow curriculum, the argument that students & their families are increasingly being left to advance student learning in the social & natural sciences, arts, home economics, and vocational subject areas grows stronger by the day.  It remains to be seen whether students will dedicate their technological devices to these ends during out-of-school time.

Yes, these are interesting and important times for technology. And considering the level of technological shift schools are poised to embark on, the swing between potential educational gain and loss has never been greater.

Let's just hope that enough people can shape the right policy to prevent our schools from hurtling headlong into a technological abyss.