Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools' push toward a wireless "Bring Your Own Technology" environment is generating buzz and questions. Among them: Will the wifi connections being installed in all school buildings reach the mobile classrooms that house hundreds of students in crowded schools?
I posed that question to Chief Information Officer Scott Muri, and got this answer via spokeswoman Tahira Stalberte: "We are working through a solution for our mobile environments."
That's going to be an issue to watch. Schools ringed with mobiles are often in booming, relatively affluent areas where families are in tune with technology and engaged with education. Sometimes that enthusiasm is tempered with a sense that their neighborhoods have been shortchanged on school construction and/or classroom spending. If CMS plans to ask families to buy the tablets, smart phones and/or e-readers that are now being described as essential for 21st century learning, there's bound to be blowback if some are told the kids in mobiles won't be part of the district's wireless transformation.
Another comment came from an elementary school teacher who's eager to incorporate the latest learning technology. Her efforts so far have been hampered by a lack of tech support, she said, because her school expects a science teacher to tack that work onto his regular duties. If CMS wants teachers to delve into the latest apps and software -- and make them work with an array of devices brought from home -- she wants to see full-time tech support in each school.
At a recent budget session, interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh outlined a $1.3 million plan to add tech facilitators at 23 high schools in 2012-13 (read it here, starting on page 53). He said adding tech staff to elementary and middle schools will have to wait until future budgets.
I asked Muri for clarification of what support would be provided in lower grades next year. The answer, again via Stalberte: "Each elementary and middle school has a tech contact in place today, and these folks will continue to meet the needs of these schools next year. In addition, technical support will be provided by district-level staff as well as third party vendors. Professional development for teachers will be provided by the district as well as individual schools."
Finally, an interesting note from a newsroom mom whose third-grader has been told his school reports should be typed. Typing isn't taught that early, she said, and she wondered whether a push to get kids producing material on a keyboard (or touch pad) will collide with a lack of basic typing skill. She's solving the immediate problem by typing her son's reports while making him responsible for the content, but she knows not all parents can do that.
Somehow I had assumed that learning to type was part of a basic education for today's young digital natives. But while the state has technology objectives that start in kindergarten and include learning about research and ethics, those standards don't include the drudgery of memorizing where the letter keys are. Hmm ... sounds like there might be a business opportunity in offering Typing for Tykes!