I went back to school Wednesday night to watch over the technology for our “Reading Under the Stars” program. It was in conjunction with the PTO Book Fair which has been running for the past week in the media center. We were setup outside in our courtyard with people on blankets and lawn chairs while teachers, parents and administrators read different books. Between stories we gave away books to people who had purchased books at the Fair and received a raffle ticket. We used an AverMedia Document Camera, a projector and an ActivBoard to show the book pages as they were read.
The turn out was pretty good, while the stories were read with great drama and style. Two of the best readers were Mrs. Bobbie Petty with her husband Larry playing Farmer Brown.
The other was our AP John Weida. He has developed a following with his inspired readings of Skippyjon Jones and treated the students and parents gathered together to an amazing story. I have to say that it was almost like watching the Rocky Horror Picture show with the interactive audience. My daughter thought that Mr. Weida was the best and the black eared Skippyjon Jones was the cats meow!
This is what education is about. We need to get the kids involved by doing fun things with them. Mr. Weida reads every Friday morning on our news broadcast BWN. It definitely is the highlight of the week. Kids talk about it all week, and they actually read books to be able to suggest one to Mr. Weida. We need to see more of this if we want to increase our children’s knowledge, if we want “No Child Left Behind.”
One of the biggest problems with calling a tech support line or a customer support help desk is that the first call responders are not real tech support. They are most of the time not even in this country, which is a shame because companies try to save money by taking it out of the hands of the people who actually buy their products. Most of the time they are not trained in the product they are supporting and are paid on a per call basis so they try to get you off the phone as soon as they can.
Lastly, the one topic that really annoys me is they are reading a script! It’s not even their thoughts, they are reading from a manual of possible solutions. The reason I bring this last point up by itself is that it happened to me today as I was getting a case number to submit for a bad AMP on an ActivBoard. I called the company that we use for support on ActivBoards, announced who I was, the problem and that I was a certified ActivBoard installer. I explained the troubleshooting steps I had taken and that I had already installed a second AMP and that it was working properly with good sound coming from the speakers. After all this, the person I was talking to read off the script, asking me “Have you tried the AMP with a second power supply?”
Well duh, why would I considering I had removed it, put a new one in it’s place and the new one was working perfectly. When I pointed this out to him there was a slight pause and then he gave me the case number I needed to call in my service request for a replacement AMP from the local warehouse.
Being an IT Support Professional this really bothers me as it gives the whole profession a bad name. I work very hard to keep my teachers from having to worry about their technology, but instead keeping them focused on using that technology to teach our kids.
The FCAT started last week here in Florida. Our state legislators in all their wisdom have massively cut funding to education, back to 2004/05 levels and more cuts are on the way. The local school districts have had to slash their own budgets to deal with the loss in funds, which means less educators to help the children learn what they need. Of course the FCAT is just a test, but the state has made it so important that it is the major focus of the learning enviroment.
With that in mind, I have a prediction for the results of this years FCAT in our district:
FCAT scores will be flat this year. Reason: Budget Cuts = Less Staff. The ActivBoards in our district will make the scores flat, instead of a decline if we didn’t have this valuable tool.
I believe the only thing that is going to save the scores in our district are the ActivBoards and the teachers that we have. The ActivBoards have had a dramatic affect in getting the students involved in their learning. The teachers in this district are great, have learned to use the ActivBoard correctly and strive to give our children the best education they can get.
The one other thing that is saving our district is the support of our citizens. They have supported a referendum that has brought in the money to have top ranked teachers and technology.