Suggestions for School Board Members

I’ve been asked to speak for about 30 minutes to a group of school board members in Texas, who are finishing up a special extended institute provided by the Texas Association of School Boards.  You know the story.  Ask me to do a three-day workshop and I can do it now.  One day, and I can be ready tomorrow.  One hour and give me a week to prepare.  A half-hour?  We’ll it’s never ready.  But I know what I want to say.

They want big picture ideas and some specific recommendations.  My big picture is always three bullet points, and I’ve talked about it here before.  Tonight, however, I’m going to tell some stories to make my points.

First will be my 9th grade civics teacher who predicted that by the year 2000, we would each have our own personal computer.  It will be small enough to fit in our shirt pocket, and it will be able to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. ..and we didn’t believe such an outrageous idea.  It’s an indication of how rapidly change has occurred.  I solicited help from the smarter part of my mind, tweeting, “What have you seen lately that would have ASTONISHED you 30 years ago?”  Here are the answers that I got.  There is a lot of duplication, but I thought I’d give you all of them.

Bottom line?  We’re preparing our children for a future we can not clearly describe.

I won’t write the whole thing down here, but the next story describes how I learned that technology isn’t all that special.  It’s the information.  It’s the communication.  In 2002, we generated 5 exabytes of information.  In 2006, it was 161 exabytes (a million libraries of congress).  Projections are that 2010 will see 998 exabytes.  That information is suddenly growing at such an incredible and exponential rate tells us something about how it has changed.  NBC, CBS, and McGraw-Hill didn’t grow all of that information.  It happened because the landscape has changed.  We’re participants now. 

Bottom line? The information environment has changed.  Teaching, learning, and schooling must adapt.

Finally, it’s the story of arranging to meet for pizza with some folks I met in a chat room (channel), just days after IRC was announced on a newsgroup — only to learn then that my new friends were in Reykyavik, Iceland.  It was weeks later that I speculated that this experience might be a model for the world that our students will be growing into.  But I could never have predicted how quickly this would happen.

Bottom line? Our children are entering our classrooms from an information experiences that we do not understand.  It is rich, deep, and personal — and more than we can duplicate in most of our classrooms.

I close with some suggestions, that education leaders:

  • Respect & pay attention to the kids
  • Give learners a voice
  • Hire learners to teach
  • Seize “almost” every opportunity to replace books with digital content (ouch)
  • Pursue 1:1 carefully, but urgently
  • Support the infrastructure
  • Make sure that the tech staff works for the teachers
  • The best thing we can teach our children today, is how to teach themselves
  • When you visit the school, be happy when you see learning.  Be suspicious when you see too much teaching.

Do you have more suggestions.  Please post them as comments here.

10 thoughts on “Suggestions for School Board Members”

  1. Sieze the opportunity to encourage and participate in web 2.0 literacy amongst your board and in all areas of administration — ustream board meetings, Skype public comments from constituents, participate in integrated technology classes with your student constituents.

    Expect all facets of the school system to learn and utilize the technology your students and parents and other stakeholders are using.

  2. The last one is my favorite. I think people fear that if the teacher isn’t teaching, there’s no control. More need to step back and let the learners explore. I did professional development class with about 30 teachers and when I gave them a short overview and left them to learn on their own with resources I created/collected for them. About 1/4 didn’t know what to do…acted like it was a waste of their time, 1/4 just screwed around and the others took the time to learn on their own and use me as a resource when need be. Those that took advantage of the time appreciated it and took something with them. We need to be comfortable with giving learners time…busy hands don’t need to be “controlled.”

    1. Richard,

      I am happy that you enjoyed the evening presentation. Doing a half-hour address is hard work for me 😉

      I have looked at Wolfram Alpha and blogged about it a couple of times before it was launched. Theoretically, it could change the world of search significantly. However, it isn’t there yet. I’ve not gone there looking for something and been successful yet. I go back to Google. But, again, Alpha is in its earliest stages. That it works at all says that the theory is sound — by my reckoning.

      — dave —

  3. Thanks for far more than 2cents worth of information. You program in San Antonio and again in Ft. Worth jogged my thinking. THanks

  4. One of the things that I have always found discouraging about any school board is the ratio of non school adults to school adults. What I mean is, the amount of people who either have a student or have worked in a school to adults who just want to be part of a political scene. It has always seemed to me that they worry about budget instead of the students themselves.

  5. I definitely think that schools need to be adapting to children’s learning styles. We shouldn’t be teaching the same way they did 30 years ago because the environment is completely different. Kids are soaking up things differently, and if schools want to be effective in teaching, they need to get on board and update!
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