Archives for category: Technology, Computers

Kentaro Toyamo worked briefly as a tutor at the Lakeside Academy in Seattle, which is richly endowed with technology. He observed that what students needed most was adult guidance.

In this article, he discusses both the value and limits of educational technology. It may be used for education or for distraction.

But there are some systemic problems that technology can’t fix. Like inequality.

He writes:


In America, much of our collective handwringing about education comes from comparisons with other countries. In the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), American students ranked twenty-seventh in math and seventeenth in reading. But while the United States as a whole may be losing its competitive edge, stronger students aren’t sliding. At the annual International Math Olympiads, for example, where countries send their six best precollege mathematicians to solve problems that make SAT questions seem like 1+1, the United States regularly places in the top three.

“But as data from PISA show, high-scoring countries emphasize high-quality education for everyone, not just the elite. America, unfortunately, does poorly here when compared against thirty-three of the world’s wealthiest countries. We have the third-lowest school enrollment rate for fifteen-year-olds (nearly 20 percent of our kids are not in school!), and we’re ninth worst in educational disparity—scores vary particularly widely between well-off students and low-income ones. We all know that our schools are unequal. Less acknowledged is that this inequality is responsible for our lack of global competitiveness.

If educational inequality is the main issue, then no amount of digital technology will turn things around. This is perhaps the least-understood corollary of technological amplification. At a talk Secretary of Education Arne Duncan gave at the South by Southwest conference, he pressed the case for more technology in education (mentioning “technology” forty-three times, and “teachers” only twenty-five). He claimed, “Technology can level the playing field instead of tilting it against low-income, minority and rural students—who may not have laptops and iPhones at home.” But this is wishful thinking; it’s misleading and misguided. Technology amplifies preexisting differences in wealth and achievement. Children with greater vocabularies get more out of Wikipedia. Students with behavioral challenges are more distracted by video games. Rich parents will pay for tutors so that their children can learn to program the devices that others merely learn to use. Technology at school may level the playing field of access, but a level field does nothing to improve the skill of the players, which is the whole point of education. Mark Warschauer, a professor at University of California, Irvine, and one of the foremost scholars in the field of educational technology finds that “the introduction of information and communication technologies in … schools serves to amplify existing forms of inequality.”

How many times have you heard Secretary Duncan say the word “inequality”? He has often said the opposite–that poverty can be overcome by “no excuses” charter schools, pointing to schools with high graduation rates and high attrition rates (“same school, same students, different results”). How’s that theory working out?

As regular readers know, this blog posted intensive and critical coverage of the failed iPad fiasco in Los Angeles, thanks to the many Los Angeles friends who forwarded articles and commentary. At a time when the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times continued to defend the commitment of $1.3 Billion for iPads, I questioned the legality of spending voter-approved bond funds dedicated to capital projects on disposable iPads.

Make no mistake: the iPad deal was Superintendent John Deasy’s creation. He said it was a civil rights issue. Anyone who opposed it, in his telling, did not care about civil rights.

Of course, the done deal with Apple and Pearson collapsed when journalists obtained emails showing contacts between Deasy and the winners of the contract well before the bidding. The FBI scooped up many boxes of documents and is still investigating the deal. Deasy moved on and now works for Eli Broad, the billionaire leading the national charge to privatize public education. Broad’s legacy will be: “I tried to destroy American public education…..” And we hope to add these words to Broad’s legacy: “And I failed.”

But don’t forget: the iPad mess was Deasy’s baby.

Now, however, the charter school industry (Deasy’s allies) is attacking school board member Bennett Kayser for approving the iPad deal.

This is the definition of chutzpah. Kayser, a former teacher, is a strong supporter of public education and was a critic of Deasy and an advocate for charter school accountability and transparency. That makes him an enemy of the charter lobby, which raises vast sums to silence critics. Anyone who wants accountability from the charter industry is its enemy.

Kayser’s opponent in the May 19 election, Ref Rodriguez, says he would have been more responsible than Kayser in oversight of the iPad deal. This is laughable since Rodriguez’s charter chain was recently criticized by a state audit for its lax financial practices. Rodriguez is treasurer of his charter chain. He didn’t notice, for example, that the husband of a high-level employee of the chain won a contract for food services, worth millions of dollars. Ref may have many strengths, but financial oversight is not one of them. Given his financial backing by the charter-Broad crowd, he would have been a reliable vote for Deasy.

Don’t forget to vote on May 19.

Vote for Bennett Kayser, dedicated friend of students and public schools.

Leonie Haimson is a national treasure. She founded a group called Class Size Matters, which advocates for reduced class size. She is an unpaid worker for kids in Néw York and across the nation. She is also an expert on data-mining and student privacy. Through her research and testimony, she informed parents in seven states about the $100 million committed by the Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation to create inBloom, a vast data mining plan. Once exposed, arents protested, state after state withdrew and inBloom collapsed.

Here is a public letter from a parent to Leonie Haimson:

The California parent wrote:

Leonie Haimson’s Opt Out Message Rang Out Loud and Clear on the West Coast

—What a small but mighty group can do—

—RestorePVEducation —

We had the privilege of hearing Leonie Haimson speak on April 12th in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

Leonie spoke to the privacy issues, data mining and high stakes testing.

Parents heard loud and clear.

Today it was confirmed that 200 students out of a class of 464 Opted Out at Palos Verdes High School’s 11th grade class. Only approximately 40% are taking the SBAC.

Palos Verdes High School has a 98% rate of students going on to college.
We are already ‘College Ready’.

If Smarter Balanced thinks that CA parents have already been dumbed-down, think again.

Parents and community are waking up to the Smarter Balanced profiteering scenario and they don’t like what they are finding out.

Parents here questioned “Where is the Smarter Balanced Privacy Policy?” only to find out from Leonie that there is none. Absolutely no Privacy Policy to be found. How reassuring

Parents are questioning why Smarter Balanced has ‘locked out’ the public, school boards, administrators, parents and community from any information regarding the Smarter Balanced Executive Committee, its’ elections, decisions, agendas, minutes, etc.

There is no way to access the SB website for any of this type of information since September 1, 2014.

Yet Smarter Balanced is dictating policy decisions, lessons and testing to 17 states who have paid them with public funds.

Any decisions made by Smarter Balanced are done in secret, while Smarter Balanced functions on public funds.

Housed along with the CRESST center on the UCLA campus, parents fear, and rightly so, that the Hewlitt Foundation CRESST center is accessing our children’s data.

Why? And who else gets to see and use it?

Third party vendors are having a field day with our CA children’s data. We get the Big Data, Big Money Scheme. We don’t want that here.

While our local Palos Verdes Peninsula School District has been pouring funds to meet the unfunded mandates for technology, parents have stormed the Board room questioning why their children are in huge classes or combo classes.

Teachers have only seen a 2% raise over an 8 year period. There is no money for anything but technology to take the SBAC tests.

When asked parents will tell you that 1 teacher is worth a million computers to their child. We don’t need more tech to teach children–we need more teachers.

By 2012, 77 Palos Verdes teachers had lost their jobs, and have not been replaced.

What has come in instead is more computers and software.

Parents get it and will not stand for it any longer.

Thanks Leonie Haimson for bringing your message to CA. We are starting our chapter of Parents Across America.

Watch out Smarter Balanced–here we come!

Minnesota testing was briefly halted when Pearson servers became overloaded–were they not expecting so many students?–and a “denial-of-service” hacker broke into the system.

“An overloaded processor and a “malicious denial-of-service attack” led to the shutdown Tuesday of Minnesota’s statewide student testing system, the state’s testing contractor said Wednesday.

“Pearson, the testing company, apologized for the problems and said the system had been repaired. By late morning, though, Minnesota Department of Education officials were not yet ready to give the all-clear.

“We still need to hear from Pearson exactly what the issue is, how they have resolved it, and receive an assurance that testing can resume smoothly,” department spokesman Josh Collins said.”

In an age when hackers can break into the computer systems of major corporations, can Pearson expect to remain immune?

John Deasy’s ill-fated commitment to buy an iPad for every student and staff member (he called the program a civil rights issue) loaded with Pearson software for $1.3 billion is finished.

The district is canceling the program and demanding a multi-million dollar refund.

“Los Angeles Unified told Apple Inc. this week that it will not spend another dollar on the Pearson software installed on its iPads and is seeking a multimillion-dollar refund from the technology giant.

“If an agreement cannot be reached, the nation’s second-largest school district could take Apple to court.

“While Apple and Pearson promised a state-of-the-art technological solution for ITI implementation, they have yet to deliver it,” David Holmquist, the school district’s attorney, wrote in a letter to Apple’s general counsel. The ITI, or Instructional Technology Initiative, is the district’s name for its iPad program.

“Holmquist said the district is “extremely dissatisfied” with the work of Pearson on its technology initiative to get computers into the hands of each of the district’s 650,000 students.

“As we approach the end of the school year, the vast majority of students are still unable to access the Pearson curriculum on iPads,” he wrote.

“L.A. Unified’s $1.3 billion iPad program has been fraught with problems, from issues getting the technology to work in the classrooms to questions about how the tablets were procured.”

The procurement is being investigated by the FBI.

Remember the Néw York Times story about the tech executives in California who send their own children to a no-tech Waldorf school?

Look at this:

“Please comment on this and help stop before it starts. This has to be stopped before these are turned into laws. This is how bad it is getting in Connecticut.

“HIGH-STAKES testing BEFORE Kindergarten…..Keyboarding instruction in Kindergarten. God help these children:

“AN ACT CONCERNING THE KINDERGARTEN ASSESSMENT TOOL. (given in preschool!!)

http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/cgabillstatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&bill_num=SB00339&which_year=2015″

AN ACT CONCERNING COMPUTER KEYBOARDING INSTRUCTION IN KINDERGARTEN AND ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/cgabillstatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&bill_num=HB05015&which_year=2015

Ramon Cortines, interim superintendent of schools in Los Angeles, said that the district can’t afford to buy iPads or computers for every student and staff member. This is a repudiation of his predecessor John Deasy’s signal initiative, which was couched as a civil rights issue.

“Los Angeles Unified School Supt. Ramon C. Cortines said Friday the district cannot afford to provide a computer to every student, signaling a major reversal for his predecessor’s ill-fated $1.3-billion effort to distribute iPads to all students, teachers and school administrators.

“Instead, Cortines said, the L.A. Unified School District will try to provide computers to students when needed for instruction and testing.

“I don’t believe we can afford a device for every student,” said Cortines, who added that the district never had a fleshed-out framework for how the devices would be used in the classroom and paid for over time.

“Education shouldn’t become the gimmick of the year,” Cortines said in a meeting Friday with several reporters.”

Rachel Levy sent out an alarm about terrible legislation proposed in Virginia.

Evidently the Republicans in the legislature have been taking their marching orders from ALEC. ALEC wants deregulation of schools. It would like a free market in education, with charters, vouchers, and public schools chasing dollars and students. ALEC doesn’t believe that local school boards will approve enough charters, so ALEC recommends that governors create commissions that can override local resistance to charters. Thus ALEC prefers Big Government and is quite happy to crush local control.

There are other parts of this legislation and other bills that are odious. Unfortunately, a bill to decrease the number of required state tests was defeated.

If you live in Virginia, now is the time to get active. Let your elected representatives hear you!

Five districts and the California School Boards Association are suing the state for $1 billion to recover the cost of computers and other technology needed for Common Core testing. They say the state must pay for unfunded mandates. The state says the districts must pay to comply with federal law.

The irony is that Arne Duncan keeps saying that the Common Core was developed by the states and is not a federal program. It is surely not mandated by NCLB.

Leonie Haimson lists here the best and worst education events of 2014.

She cites the demise of inBloom as one of the best and the Vergara decision as one of the worst.

What would you add to her list?

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