Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Detroit Public Schools "Technology Infusion"

The scandal plagued Detroit Public School announced today that they are spending $49 million in Federal grants on a "Technology Infusion." The purchase list includes:
40,000 ASUS Netbook laptop computers
5,000 for teachers
35,000 for students
4,789 HP desktop computers – one for every classroom
4,291 multi-purpose printer/scanners
4,550 document cameras
533 HP desktop computers delivered for use in early childhood education programs
273 SMART Boards purchased for School Improvement Grant schools through Title I funds obtained by Wayne RESA 
A district spokeswomen told Michigan Radio that “Each school will be developing its own unique curriculum for the netbooks. And really the sky’s the limit for implementation of the new technology in the  classroom.”

I have a few concerns:
  • Have/will teachers be properly trained to incorporate this technology in pedagogically sound ways?
  • Have/will students be instructed on more than the simple basics of MS Office and graphic design? Will they be taught about the importance of their digital footprint, proper online behavior, and the power of virtual collaboration? 
  • DPS students are already under performing. How will adding a new layer of complexity (a netbook for every student) improve teaching and learning?
Although I am a great proponent of technology, I am under no allusions that technology alone will solve any problems. People solve problems, not computers. This $49 million could be a great thing or could continue DPS's history of mismanagement, corruption, and general lameness. 

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree with you. In fact, I can add three more major concerns.

    First, they are trying to do this "on the cheap." My mom has a netbook, and although she loves it for word processing and web surfing, she readily admits that it has very limited capacity for other things.

    Second, they are using stimulus funds for this project. At this point, schools and nonprofits really need to build in the cost of technology as part of the cost of doing business. What is the replacement plan as equipment becomes obsolete or breaks over the next 3-6 years?

    And third, and perhaps most seriously, I was very disturbed by this Detroit Free Press article:
    DPS Teacher Shortage Makes Learning Tough. According to the article, classes are extremely overcrowded; many are being taught by unqualified subs or by qualified teachers who are being moved from school to school, and some schools aren't even able to hand out grades! In that context, it is really hard to understand how these teachers could harness that technology--no matter how well-intentioned or knowledgeable those teachers are.


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