Head in the cloud
Her brow is furrowed, and I can see her eyes search for the next letter, her fingers poised uncertainly. Impatient, I force myself to step back, breathe and let her figure it out.
After what seems an eternity – her typing in the name of the document – she asks me, “How do I upload this again?”
With the implementation of the Google platform, Clarke County School District personnel are using technology for more and more classes.
In August, the Clarke County School District became enveloped in the “cloud,” which allows CCSD personnel to access data using Google’s online storage space, Google Apps for Education. This includes Google Docs, an online suite for creating spreadsheets, slideshow presentations, forms and other documents.
All CCSD students have access to Google Docs through their individual Gmail accounts, which students were able to access in August.
According to Instructional Technology Specialist James Castle, using the technology, such as the Google platform, is a positive improvement.
“Technology (allows us to) foster ideals like collaboration and creativity. A student can recall facts by rote memorization, but what can they create? What problems can they solve?” Castle said. “Those are more interesting questions and I think the technology tools, if applied properly, get us to that stage.”
Sure, creation is better than memorization, and pushing the envelope is better than accepting predefined limits.
But the way students have been immersed in technology was not seamless enough to be fully effective.
While there are students who have been lucky enough to grow up with advanced technology, like net books and tablets, for many at this school, this access is not the norm.
According to Castle, approximately 65 percent of CCSD eighth graders have computers with internet access.
But, what about the other 35 percent?
If technology is supposed to be a seamless addition to our curricula, 100 percent of students must be considered. It is unfair for homework to be submitted online or notes saved in Google Docs if not every student can access it. Until there is a means for every student to have internet access at home, teachers cannot rightfully assign homework to be completed using internet.
Certainly, with the prevalence of smart devices and laptops, more students have some form of internet access, but these devices have limitations. They cannot be considered viable alternatives to an actual computer.
Teachers are also adjusting to life in the Google Apps for Education through training sessions offered to CCSD employees, although according to CCHS social studies department teacher Harry Cooper, some of these sessions are too short to be helpful.
“Teachers are trained very, very quickly, in an amount of time that is ridiculously short and usually in between other things that we need to be doing,” Cooper said.
While teachers have had some sort of training — however inadequate — no sort of formalized help has yet been offered to students.
“We’re hoping that if teachers are able to grasp it, then they will be able to teach their students how to use it as well,” CCHS principal Dr. Robbie P. Hooker said.
However, how are teachers who lack proficiency expected to teach their students?
Perhaps the idea is that eventually teachers will know how to open Google Docs, critique submitted homework online or conduct a slideshow presentation. The concern, though, should be for right now.
Right now, we have students who have no clue how to save a document into Google Docs. Teachers struggle consistently with present technology and waste class time as a result.
One such example occurred in early September, when the server crashed and the “cloudburst” left classes without lesson plans. Productivity suffered greatly, as did learning.
Ask any CCHS student: every kid has been in a class with a malfunctioning computer or nonresponsive SMARTboard. We lose time and energy, and now, our dependence on technology is becoming more widespread.
While there is no doubt that this was done with the best of intentions, and while this endeavor is personally supported, it does not seem realistic for our school district unless thorough and targeted training to help students use technology more effectively is provided.
Many students, teachers and administrators might be on Cloud Nine about the technology influx.
However, it is important that we focus on keeping our head out of the clouds and considering all of our students, not just the portion who are fortunate to feel at home within “the cloud.”
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