It's the Schools. Paul Davis on the Sad State of Technology in Schools

It's the Schools. Paul Davis on the Sad State of Technology in Schools

October 1, 2005

IT’S THE SCHOOLS. Paul Davis on the Sad State of Technology in Schools. The comment below from my friend Paul Davis (the guy I go to when I have a math problem I can’t think through) is so on the mark that I am posting it as a separate piece. Paul is an applied mathematician by training. He has been helping CT schools with technology issues. As you will see, things are not good in the schools.

I am hoping to visit with Education Secretary Margaret Spellings again in the next weeks and will ask what they are doing to help. My belief, however, is that the solution has to come from local parents, students, teachers, administrators, and boards of education. So get out there and raise hell about this. This may be the single most important issue for our kids future employability. We can’t afford to get this wrong.

I would love to hear from you about your experiences, both good and bad, with technology in the schools. Please send me your comments.
JR

PAUL’S REMARKS BELOW:
JR,
I’m sorry I wasn’t aware that you would be talking about this on Squawk Box before it happened. Many of my clients are Connecticut public school districts and it has been my observation that the quality and breadth of technology and communications resources in the school systems, even the wealthy ones, is quite poor.

The two weakest links seem to be teachers themselves and the communications/networking infrastructure. Most teachers are only minimally proficient in using computers themselves. I’m not talking about just the computer science teachers here, but rather the entire teaching staff. The result is that the kids learn about computers primarily as a technology – a discipline in it’s own right – rather than as an adjunct to all their classwork.

An art teacher should be able to show kids how to draw and paint with computers, how to process photos, how to do research on Monet, how to detect forged paintings and digitally modified images. but an art teacher can’t do that if he/she isn’t proficient with the technology himself.

The second weak link, communications/networking, is really an infrastructure issue. Usually each school building is wired and has a computer lab which is used for computer training of students and staff. Wireless communications within the building are rare. Communications between school buildings in the same district are problematic at best. This makes broadcasting of video and audio material difficult, if not impossible.

The district’s IT guru invariably spends a tremendous percentage of his time just trying to keep the network functioning. Very few districts have fiber between school buildings and the Board of Ed. It’s too expensive for them when they have uncontrollable, non-discretionary costs like Special Education to cover.

It is a sad state of affairs.

Paul Davis

John Rutledge

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