by Natasha L. Adams
Thankfully, we have more technology… unfortunately, it is not the answer.
Although it has been of high interest to get technology in the hands of our students and staff on a daily basis for the last several years, we have moved at a slow pace due to our lean budget and other financial necessities taking priority over that goal.
As a result, the digital divide has been widening for our students and staff, which has created an inherent inequity across our school system. The school closure last spring certainly highlighted – in a very public way – the gaps that existed with our ability to support the effective use of educational technology in our classrooms.
With the additional funding from the CARES Act and the all-in efforts of our staff, we have accelerated our efforts to equip our students and staff with daily access to technology.
In the last several months our school district has expanded our 1:Wolf initiative that lends a device to every learner in grades K-12 to utilize at school and home. Thanks to our partnership with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission and because we have recently opened new buildings, we have been able to bolster our strong network infrastructure to handle this increased daily use. We have also hired more technicians and have ordered new devices for students and staff with the oldest machines. Increased access to technology within our school community has certainly been a silver lining in the pandemic.
In the coming weeks, a grant opportunity will enable us to provide broadband capabilities for many students in need of internet access at their homes and will provide internet at each of our school parking lots. This is an incredible opportunity and helps us leap in the right direction – we are continuing to build on our positive momentum and not let this pandemic force us to operate solely in “survival” mode.
But even with these advances in technology and access across our district, it is still not enough. The 1:Wolf initiative is incredibly important, yet it is not an “easy” button we can push to solve our district’s educational challenges.
Access to technology alone is not the answer. As important as technology is, technology in the hands of our students and staff will not magically make everyone smarter, raise test scores, save money, or make up for our students who come to school hungry—in the same way that a new brick and mortar school building can’t solve these problems either.
The importance of the teacher’s presence and the principal’s impact cannot be underestimated. Now that we have made huge progress towards access to technology, we can focus more attention on building capacity in our staff to use it effectively to bring out the best in each person.
With any new implementation of new technology, it seems it’s always more complex before it can be made more simple. Daily use helps to improve the overall experience. The world is changing significantly. Automation, artificial intelligence, and the internet of things are rapidly shifting how we interact with the world.
We have already experienced in a big way how learning can be reimagined beyond the classroom walls with the use of technology. That’s why it is important more than ever that technology be used not just to deliver content or be used as a camera, but to unlock the potential of each student and enhance human connection.
The fact remains that the way we have been doing school was designed for a different time. We must approach the school experience as something that needs to be reimagined to serve modern student needs, curiosities, and capabilities. We will continue to work with our students, families, staff, and partners to make appropriate changes that ensure the experiences we offer develops what our learners need to be their best in our rapidly changing landscape.
Our students need us more than ever to be courageous and steadfast in our approach to create a flexible, agile learning system and no longer expect our students to “fit” into a narrow definition of school.
We are not machines working with machines; we are humans engaging with other humans through technology and the people who do that best will be the most successful. And at West Clermont, our success is driven by bringing out the best in each and every learner.
Together as one community, we must see to it that our students never go without daily access to technology again. Technology represents access to information, people, places and ideas that could never be reached in the walls of the school building. It’s a tool for our artists, writers, scientists, dreamers, leaders and entrepreneurs to use to create their world. And it’s a world I cannot wait to see.
Have feedback on what you’ve read? Let us know!