Georgia's education system is broke. I don't mean its broke in a way that Georgia is behind in achievement, but you could make a case for that. I mean it's broke in a way that there is just no money. The economy is bad, but it seems to be recovering. Yet Georgia's education systems are trying to figure out budget deficits on almost a yearly basis. This has killed the support of education technology in schools.
Inherently, the budget crisis puts Georgia behind. Many school districts all over the country have begun implementing 1 to 1 programs to bridge the achievement gap. How long will it be before this has to come to public high schools in Georgia? At this point, the answer to that question is it does not matter. When you have teachers and instructional technology specialist getting cut on a regular basis, you can't afford to add a 1 to 1 program. This proves Georgia students are at a disadvantage. If they can't learn basic technology through their studies in grade school, how will they be able to compete for the high technology jobs of the 21st century?
If we do come to a point where we can have 1 to 1 programs, how can we provide the necessary professional development to serve them? Personally, I have been looking for an education technology job for 8 months. There are just not many of them in Georgia because of the budget crisis. Jobs that do exist, exist with the possibility that they will get cut. This leaves Georgia's educators very underserved. What will these teachers do as the technology becomes more ubiquitous with things such as the implementation of 1 to 1 programs? There only way to learn is from a few instructional technology specialists that support multiple schools. We have to do something. It's time to bring an organization to Georgia similar to the one Kevin Honeycutt works for in Kansas.
This organization would provide cheap and interactive professional development to Georgia teachers for a fair and low price. This would give teachers the tools in their toolbox that they all need while giving districts a way to provide that support at a fraction of the cost. This organization would be strictly a non-profit that is there to serve the needs of the educators in the state. We could start with a very small staff that works to schedule, build relationships, and raise money. Our professional developers could be strictly on a part time consultant basis so we could get the best education technology experts in Georgia. This would be an organization that is always there for the districts, and one that works to build whatever workshop the district needs. We could start with education technology needs and expand from there. It could be funded through local business partnerships and perhaps even a grant from the state level.
While it would be great to just train teachers on the technology of the future, we also have to find a way to put that technology into their hands. This organization would also have a teacher grant program. The entire goal of this program would be to put the best technology tools into the hands of the best and brightest minds in our schools without district interference. To be part of the program, teachers would have to go through a rigorous application process which includes both lesson plans and observations. If they were chosen they would get the technology of their dreams, but it would remain property of this new organization. It would basically be just like a rental. This benefits the teacher because this technology would follow them to any school that they move to in Georgia. This isn't something that is just given though. The teacher would have to agree to periodic observations to ensure that the technology is used, and they would have to go through training courses to insure that they could deal with any minor difficulty. If they successfully complete five years of this program, teachers could have that technology replaced with the newest model.
This blog is my initial flag up the flag pole. If you are a Georgia educator and you are passionate about education technology, I would love to hear your opinion. If you love the idea, I would also love to have help in order to get it off the ground. With the education system the way it is in Georgia, we have to think differently. Words that would make Steve Jobs proud.
Life as a 21st century teacher is hard. It's hard to find the resources you need. It's hard to get every student access. What's the hardest thing to find though? I think the answer to that is finding the administrator who really gets it.
Education is in a transition. Educators coming out of college are digital natives who have grown up with the internet. Soon, they will be the first class that grew up with things like the Ipod. Most administrators working today are digital immigrants. Many don't even acknowledge the importance of a 21st century education, and those that do don't really understand true integration. How can these two polar opposites co-exist? How can a 21st century educator be seen as a resource, and not a hinderance?
The answer to the first question is easy. First, ALL administrators should do everything they can to support and provide for 21st century educators whether they understand the practice or not. They have to get over the fact that the traditional classroom is dying and this new age student can not be taught the same way that they were or that they did. If an administrator does not understand, seek out the people that do. I can speak from experience that most tech nerds want to bring others over to our dark side. An administrator may not understand everything that is happening, but at least they will understand that technology is a great way to engage, differentiate, and provide a quality education for every student. We need to remember that our job is to prepare students for the future, and that is one filled with technology and technology related jobs.
Administrators also need to seek out their technology stars and use them as much as possible. Every school should have a technology committee made up of 21st century teachers that make the technology decisions in the school. From this bunch, you can organize professional development to bring others along. That could include professional development meant specifically from the the administrative team. If an administrative team is not using 21st century teachers to expand the scope of the school, that school will just fall further and further behind.
Really what it comes down to is that 21st century teachers have to really look for a great fit, and if it is not in their current school they need to find one where it is. Personally, I have had two administrators that have encouraged me and pushed me to become the best 21st century teacher I can be. I have also had administrative staffs who could care less, and even look at my classroom with increased skepticism. You know who the great administrators were? The ones who pushed me.