High Tech, No Touch in 2014?
Last spring during a Vermont-NEA Professional Development Committee meeting, a paraprofessional brought up the idea of Vermont-NEA providing a class on using Chromebooks. The school district in which she worked was buying many Chromebooks, and she wanted to support her students. As we put together the class, we found that teachers were also interested, so the class was designed for both professional and paraprofessional staff. The flyer was sent out via the Vermont-NEA weekly blast, and the class soon filled. I priced the class so that it would break even, provide a couple of scholarships, include snacks and lunch, and pay for the Google Apps Certified Instructor.
However, this is not the story I want to communicate. What was revealed to me is the discrepancy among school districts’ policies about classes that offer technology as part of the class. Some schools view the "device," in this instance the Chromebook, as the textbook in the class. Participants that take the class get to keep device. Other school districts "own" the device for two years, but it is in the hands of the teacher or paraprofessional. During those two years, however, the district will provide tech support. After two years, the device belongs to the educator, but the school no longer provides support. Both these scenarios make sense to me. We are in the 21st century and we want educators to have the tools they need to support our high tech students. It takes time for teachers to explore the apps available and then plan engaging activities and projects that transforms learning using this technology. What better time to have these devices in the hands of teachers than summer!
Now for the other scenarios I encountered. There were several teachers who registered for the course and then needed to withdraw because the school would not pay for a class that offered a device. Another district or two would only pay for the "Instructional" part of the class, and the educator needed to pay for the device. Finally, a paraeducator, who runs a study hall with students who have access to Chromebooks, was asked to hand over the Chromebook to the technology department after the class was over. She will be allowed to use it during her study hall but cannot have it now; during the time she has available to think about how she might utilize Chromebooks to support learners.
I believe that if we want our learners to benefit from the technology available to them, teachers and support professionals in the school who are willing to engage in professional learning should have unlimited access to the technology provided in the class. I do not understand the thinking of the districts who on one hand expect educators to transform education using technology but do not give these educators the technology to make it happen.
I encourage Vermont educators to engage in school policy discussions regarding technology classes that include devices, so that devices remain in the hands of the educators who took the class to improve teaching and learning using the tools of today.