Moving on up, not moving out

I intended to keep this blog whether I was elected to school board or not. I had visions of attending meetings and giving public insight here that meeting minutes cannot relay. That didn’t happen because

family comes first

When I say that, I mean that I have two sons with Asperger’s Syndrome and all of my kids must be a priority. I believe that kids are a good reason to serve on the board of education, yet I’m very glad to not have gained a seat on the school board. I would have had to resign almost immediately. My one child in particular could not be left unattended that first year. I would have missed every meeting and workshop.

And while I’ve been begged to convert this space to a special needs blog, I just cannot. I still have kids in district buildings, and I and others appreciate and enjoy respect and privacy.

I am still entertaining the idea of a dual enrollment webcast over at Three Sisters. While the most interested parties want to help other struggling families, they are very concerned about things like retaliation since entire families and faculties and staffs are all still using services or working in the district. I’ve struggled with the direction to take the webcast. I just can’t protect everyone if we go live online. There just wouldn’t be a winner; it would most likely turn into therapy for the participants. If I could straighten it out, the webcast would most definitely not have the live question and answer feature that ustream and livestream provide. This webcast would not be specific to West Des Moines Community Schools. So yeah, that’s where I’m at. It’s promising, but complicated.

I’ll keep this blog alive for the time being. Stop and say hello to me when you can. I have to attend to a kid right now.

Posted in about me

Should we break up?

I mean, really, there are so many of us.

On the way home from work, I heard a radiocast of a high school football game, Dowling vs. Ankeny High. This is Ankeny’s first year with two high schools. The city and district underwent a long planning period for this year. Dave Kissinger was very inspiring to me as he spoke about ‘one town, two schools‘ and wanting the best for everyone, and especially wanting opportunities for everyone to participate in activities. He had only positive words for the situation.

If our city comes under a situation to consider building again (remember voting for or against the creation of Valley Southwoods?), I would love to see more kids have chances for positions in clubs and teams, roles and parts. (But if you’ve followed this blog, you knew that already.)

Posted in traditional media | Tagged ,

Closing of the 1:1 team — should WDMCS hop on the 1:1 train?

The school district’s 1:1 study team (sorry, I’ve been mislabeling our group as a committee) has wrapped for the season. I wrote some initial thoughts here and on my personal website. The Tech Director summed up the entire team’s findings in this blog post.

Since the school board received our information, I will now share my opinion. I want to start with a buzzword, or term, that frequently arose. Teachers on the team and at the state 1:1 Conference spoke of “twenty-first century skills” as a reason for joining the 1:1 movement, but no one could define them for me. They knew the skills were defined, but couldn’t tell me specifics. Not a big deal! I’d rather have them be good teachers than good theorists. After studying this idea on my own, mostly at p21, I feel that 1:1 programs are just one way to achieve twenty-first century skills. In fact, technology in general is one teensy piece of those skills. Information and communications technology is something everyone talks about, but with or without a 1:1 program, I want our students to know how to learn. If they know how to learn, then they can figure out technology of all sorts with or without a district-issued device.

The school board freed our group from choosing a 1:1 device. One device is not the purpose of 1:1 programs. Learning is the purpose of all 1:1 programs. If a kid knows how to learn, then that kid is set for the higher orders of analyzing and making good decisions. As the Tech Director said, if a kid becomes an expert at prezi but not at presentation skills, then the system has failed that kid. Looking at p21, the top of the list of 21st century skills includes the basics — “reading, writing, and arithmetic.” After the basics are mastered, students can then learn anything, including all the list items — with or without a personal device. I think of Bloom’s Taxonomy when I look at the 21st century skills and remain convicted to it. (You can look here for Bloom’s Taxonomy, but the diagram I remember was slightly different.)

The question: Will learning increase if every student is issued one device by the school district?

Answer: No, learning will increase only with the proper talent pool. A device is generally not necessary for the masses. A device can help, but it must be supported by a fantastic talent pool. Some SpEd kids would certainly learn and benefit more than the general school population.

More opinions: Will personal management skills increase with a laptop or other device? My answer remains the same: 1:1 is a school supply like a book or worksheet. Content must be managed whether it’s in hard or soft copy. You use a steno pad, I use my smart phone, someone else chooses an iPad. It’s an individual choice, and I do not think a school district should be in this space.

Additionally, I do not remember seeing or hearing about a good way for teachers to manage the student’s output for grading and tracking. Suppliers will need to figure this part out if they want to eventually rule the public world from their consumeristic, commercial offices.

Advice: Go back to the mission and shared vision. Say it like the Pledge of Allegiance daily before you head into the school building.

Thanks for reading. I welcome your polite comments.

Posted in policy | Tagged

District 1:1 Committee

One computer for every student

I was selected to sit on the West Des Moines School District’s 1:1 committee. The purpose of the committee is to find out why the district might want to pursue such an endeavor. I  first learned about this directive at the WDM Tech blog back in January.

I’ve let my Facebook friends know that I’m exploring the topic of 1:1, where every student in the district receives one computer (or other device) from the district, and I’ve gotten some interesting feedback, such as:

  • I like the idea of computer lab classrooms, I don’t like the idea of every student having one always.
  • I have never been distracted in class by my notebook…my laptop is a WHOLE different story
  • some dyslexics need accommodations at some point for having audio textbooks, tests read outloud, etc. …. As with any instructional aid, I think it’s more about the content, curricula and implementation than the the device itself.
  • So who is going to get the fat school contract to provide the laptops, peripheral items, cases, and support the IT infrastructure? … WDM has a spending problem. … if our district had test scores, graduation levels at a premium and a focus on math, science and tech programs that directly related to collegiate credits – then and only then – could we justify thinking about a program like this. Until then focus on traditional methods of hands on in class education.
  • [T]his is one more reason to reduce teacher support and salaries. If you can pay one teacher to teach 10 classes online 24-7 then why have a teacher in class at all. Every teacher should realize that the state is trying to replace them. Don’t allow your craft to be performed by another teacher who has sold out and undercut your salary. Teachers unions should be all over this right now.

What do you think?

Posted in board meeting | Tagged

Social media looks like

Posted in social media

Social media

I was reminiscing about a past school board member — she sent me an email about a tweet I made. Not that she had a Twitter account, but appeared to have a screenshot sent to her (which she sent to me). I found her lack of social media sense humorous, but also sad. She should have tweeted back to me, or sent a dm via Twitter, not an email. You don’t mix SM platforms!

Today, I did a social media check on a couple of our current board members. They used Facebook as a platform to get voters, held them captive, and …. let them go. Example: Kevin Carroll last posted to his FB election page on Sept. 17, 2011, as if he had no need to talk to constituents after being sworn in. If you take all the FB fans from all the school FB pages, see the number of interactions they receive, I think there is a strong argument for school board members to maintain their FB election pages. I was very willing to meet people where they were at online, and no other candidate stated the same. I now see why — because the board members are not where their constituents are. If you have a student in the WDMCS, I don’t see how you can receive quick input or get impressions and feedback when board members have their heads in the sand. I always assumed they were waiting to act collectively, but after watching the board, old and new, for over a year, I am not sure that’s what they are doing.

Posted in social media

Why take no stance?

I’ve taken a few stabs in the dark about why West Des Moines school board members refuse to take a stance at this pivotal time of the 2012 legislative session. I’ve been told that they publicly stated a stance of no stance at last night’s meeting. How disappointingly reactive. I value proactivity. If anything, they could at least show support for any statewide groups to which they belong. A little letter to the editor in the local edition of the paper might be nice. I can picture it now, “We read the IASB weekly memo, and talked to our own legislators about the four points suggested by the executive director.” If they do not belong, the board ought to state so and give a differing stance to the constituency with its reasoning.

The  IASB has done a great job getting their stance to the public, but what about the locals? Does the WDMCSB have representation with the IASB? Wouldn’t local parents like to know this? Something like, “We want you, whom we passionately serve and thank for electing, to know that we have concerns about your student’s reading as well as his passing into the next grade. Therefore, we will let our lobbyist (name here) know, and encourage you to talk to your legislator. we are monitoring the situation at the statehouse daily. Here are some facts to keep in mind when talking to your legislator. And here is contact info for him/her.”

If I were on the school board, I would be particularly interested in getting parent input on the proposed State Dept. of Ed controls over curriculum. Rural and urban schools definitely have a few different curricular needs. Any external communication, like a press release, letter to the editor, or tweet, would be great. I understand that there are many time pressures on our volunteer board. Terminating teachers, attracting the best teachers, funding, and control over curriculum would be something about which to make a statement, resulting in district parents feeling more trust and comfort in the public servants working for their children’s good. An explanation of how the proposed reforms are good for kids is definitely a topic of conversation that I’ve overheard at all grade levels in the last three weeks. We all know that each member can think and write. Surely someone could take an hour to write and run a draft among their peers, place changes in the document, then publish.

As I write this, I’m wondering if the stance of no stance and all the issues I’ve introduced in this blog have occurred because the board has no way to contact the families they serve. They have no website, no handout to go home with kids, and no social media presence. If the school board had a way to talk to constituents on their own, separate from the district employees it oversees, then it could allay concerns quicker and with more control and honesty than what they have now. Look at the city’s parallel — staff and the elect both make statements to the media. The means to communicate is here. The board should take advantage of this.

Posted in board meeting, policy, social media, traditional media | 1 Comment