The Educator's PLN

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On Twitter, I read quite a few tweets from those who are part of this PLN. It really bothers me that so much is given on technology and so many questions are asked about how you use technology in your classrooms.

The fact is, at least in my urban district, our technological capabilities are somewhat limited. Yes, we have computers but the majority of websites that would be of use to our students are blocked by the district. We have only two projectors, which everyone wants to use (mostly to show movies) so it is hard to get hold of one for powerpoints or other educational purposes. No one in my school has use of a Smartboard.... and honestly, I've never even seen how to use one.

I wanted to use a wiki site for homework, however it's blocked in the school and the majority of our students so do not have acess to computers at home. Or, much like phones... one day they have internet access the next they do not.

In my classroom, the most reliable piece of technology I have is my overhead projector; a dinosaur, I know. However, even given this sad commentary, I don't think it is at the root of inner-city underachievement.

Mixing up students of the "advantaged" with the unadvantaged will not, in my opinion, push the ever growing achievement gap between the two closer. I believe the gap begins well before our students enter school. Many of our students begin school with delays in speech and certainly with little or no experience with Standard English. Again my opinion, addressing this issue could begin to significantly begin to shorten this gap. The concept seems simple enough, but it has ramifications well beyond the classroom. This is not a blame game, it's about how we can help our students have equal advantages in life upon graduation.

I believe mastering Standard English both in written and spoken form will help our students in many different ways, which will ultimately show up in increased test scores. I am not a big test score person, but we all know districts use this as a measure of success.

I have so much more to express on this subject but am curious about your thoughts.

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It must be hard to work for a school district that does not seem to be on the same page as most other districts, in regards to educational technology. I student-taught in North Las Vegas, also an urban district, and we too struggled with what we have. We were very fortunate though to have a supportive administration, who worked hard to upgrade equipment, update teaching philosophy and mission statement to reflect the community and student population, and generally change the school around. The key idea is that there is always something you can do, even at the local school teacher level. The equipment were outdated and in short supply, but many of the teachers used this to their advantage and worked together to write grants and applied to various education programs that donated free equipment and supplies. I was there for five months and I couldn't believe the drastic change that took place throughout my time there.

Given the demographics in urban areas, it is almost a given that there will be achievement gaps.There are too many factors: socioeconomics, cultural/social backgrounds, etc. My classroom was comprised 98% English as Language Learners, many classified as AA. In one of my ELL courses, I was told it takes about 7 years to fully gain comprehension and fluency in a second language, and let's face it, Standard English, is not an easy language to learn. I was first taught Standard English in Kindergarten in the Philippines, have lived in the U.S. since age 8, and I still sometimes struggle with the language both in written and spoken form. The best we, as teachers, can do is to help integrate good techniques-- like high quality sheltered instruction (aka SIOP), modeling, intensive creative writing, etc-- in our teaching that will help our ELL students succeed.
My husband and I teach in districts that are on the opposite end of the spectrum and this is a constant cause of angst, for me. My district is the district of haves and his is a district of have-nots. I am, acutely, aware of this on a daily basis and feel, very strongly, that if we (the collective we) want to, truly, have a positive impact on education in America, the first thing we will do is find a way to correct this. There SHOULD be a basic structure of schools that should be minimal for all American students. This includes ubiquitous access to technology. Unless and until the method of funding public schools, however, undergoes a dramatic overhaul this will not be the case. If legislators, truly, want to make a difference, they will undertake solving the problem of finding a method of ensuring that ALL students, at least, have similar public school experiences. That cannot happen without a complete change in how schools are funded.
With that said, I can offer you some suggestions to help your school, now. Our school has a partnership with a local community college and they donate all of their used equipment to our school. If you can find a similar situation with a business or college, you can, dramatically, improve your situation, as they pass things down to you. My husband was able to get some top quality workout equipment from a local business that needed a tax deduction when they went out of the personal training business. He received $20,000 worth of equipment for the cost of having it moved (about $400)!
Also, using technology such as Mimio instead of Smartboards allows for a huge savings. Maybe not as many bells and whistles, but the same idea. I, personally, use Freecycle.org and there are many people who are giving away their old equipment and would be very happy for a school to put it to use. Perhaps these are some things that are starting points that can allow you to begin to get some basic needs met.
Good luck to you!
Thank you so much for your suggestions. I will look into some opportunities in my area.

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