Teachers’ Union Cool To Classroom Technology

 

BY MIKE RYAN

 

Most teachers are frustrated by the lack of parental involvement in education.  The lack of attendance at academic and non-academic events as well as dismal parental attention to grades, performance and student achievement combine to undermine scholastic strategies for success.

All else being equal, more parental involvement in homework, projects, studying and grades, equates to better student achievement.

 

Inconsistent Use of Technology Impedes Student Achievement

 

The School Board bought an on-line program named “Pinnacle” to post homework and grades.  This technology theoretically offers an opportunity for parents to be consistently involved in daily educational achievement and expectations.

Some teachers regularly post upcoming assignments or tests.  Some teachers post grades quickly so parents can react to emerging trends … or impose timely consequences.

Over the years, parents have wondered why “Pinnacle” is not used consistently across the School District and to the fullest potential.  There are “alerts”, but if nothing is posted, there is nothing to “alert”.   Reacting to changes in class performance weeks after a negative grade dampens the benefits of the technology. Parents lose precious time to react.

 

Personal Responsibility Begins with Children?

 

Once the assignment is posted on the “chalkboard”, those students who fail to timely complete assignments are learning an important life lesson.  One learned lesson for parents … regret … at what could have been achieved.

Some students, despite encouragement, do not develop great educational habits. Studies suggest this “forgetfulness” or “distractibility” may be a predictable adolescent behavior with roots in neuroscience.

Whether neuro-science or laziness, that’s where parents are supposed to step in and where “Pinnacle” could help.

 

School Board: You Better Check with the Teachers’ Union

 

When asked regarding a proposed change in policy to require upcoming assignments and tests be posted on “Pinnacle”, the School Board suggested I needed to consult the Broward Teachers’ Union (“BTU”).  So, I did.

Naturally, the different leaders of BTU who responded were consistently supportive of better performance strategies. But, rather than outright support for a policy change for “Pinnacle”, I heard …

  • Students have a responsibility, and it is their obligation, to write down assignments;
  • Students are supplied an “agenda” to record homework and upcoming tests – use it;
  • Parents will be confused if the homework assignments change or are different than what was written on the “chalkboard”;
  • Some teachers think it is only for grades, and that will be confusing;
  • Some teachers already post on-line or use similar technology;
  • Parents can engage their teachers individually if they have an issue;
  • Making students write down assignments encourages more conversations with the parents;
  • Teachers already have so much to do daily.

Admittedly, I don’t know how difficult it is to post assignments on “Pinnacle”.  I assume it is somewhere between commenting on “Facebook” regarding the latest funny-cute cat video and the complexity of writing new computer code for the latest Bill Gates’ inspired innovative brainstorm.

It is true, much is already asked of our teachers.  Many buy their own supplies for their classrooms. Most work weekends and late nights to give our students the best opportunity to excel.   Great teachers do not lose hope for their students in spite of frustratingly poor parental involvement.   The continued budgetary pressures and the perennial “pink slip” management plan are debilitating to morale at times … and worrisome for the next generation of teachers answering “the calling”.

 

What would Darwin Say?

 

However, must we accept a Darwinian model for student achievement in public education – when we know nurturing (or simple daily oversight) can make a difference?   Don’t we want to encourage MORE parental involvement, not less?

If teachers need more resources to implement existing educational tools, give it to them.

Soon, I suspect the Broward School Board is going to ask us for more tax dollars to improve technology for our schools.  Seems like a good idea.

Question: should we pile on more technology if we are too busy to take full advantage of what we have now?

(Mike Ryan is Mayor of the City of Sunrise. As a current PTA member, a former PTA officer and a former two term PTA President, he has been a long-time advocate for teachers, schools and public education.) 



11 Responses to “Teachers’ Union Cool To Classroom Technology”

  1. Floridan says:

    Two thoughts (which may be outdated since my kids have already graduated from the Broward County public schools, pre-Pinnacle):

    1. The easiest way to incorporate new technology is as a seamless system; if a technology such as Pinnacle requires multiple input of data it is less likely to be used in a timely manner (this is all the more so at the secondary school level).

    2. Why should the public schools not require a stand-alone course at various levels called “Study Skills” that explain to students the best ways to accomplish what needs to be done for academic success — I know some private schools do this, and although most of their students are perhaps more ameniable to this sort of instruction than the average public school student, that is an argument in favor, rather than against this suggestion.

  2. Sam The Sham says:

    The teachers are right. Public schools exist to give smug, over educated elitists a place to get a fat paycheck while they pretend to earn it.

    Students are just a PITA work hazard.

  3. John Fusaro says:

    Seems like a great system if more than 23 percent of households in Broward had internet.

  4. oh really says:

    @John Fusaro
    valid point
    we give how many subsidized housing, subsidized cell phones, SNAP, school breakfasts and lunches so whats another laptop for every single parent and internet access so MAYBE they will be interetsed enough to track their kid(s) status in school

  5. John Fusaro says:

    23 percent still don’t have internet.

  6. oh really says:

    so we have to give them internet wi-fi as well?
    how come parents of some don’t want to be parents and worse do not know the job description? being a parent is the toughest job in the world but seems some kids have parents that don’t care to show up

  7. excompassionateconservative says:

    I think the gap between households with internet and non internet is a not a viable argument against Pinnacle. My mother is good example. She has nom internet and no computer. She can still access her bank information via a bank visit and with her statments by mail.

    My biew ia that Pinnacle allows thoise parents to keep track of their kids work and save a lot of time which allows those parents who desire more personal contact with their school more time.

    Some students with learning disabilities or not up to par habits have benefitted from their parens being able to see assigments. I really enjoy getting emails generated when a class grade for my kids falls below a certian level. No more make believe from kids about how they did on a test.

    Some people do not have a hard wire internet connection, however, I have yet to meet the parent opr STUDENT in school who does not have a smart phone which can access the web or recieve text messages. I do not buy the argument of low internet usage by the low income since they often were years ahead of me in having smart phones.

    If they do not have web access, so what? They can still have access to live visits. We had a rptary dial phone with a party line in the 60s and we were dirt poor by today’s standards and my father took off when I was 5. Yet, my mom was still able to meet with crazy and abvusive nuns who would be in prison today for their actions back in the day. Go figure.

    I fully support public schools and teachers as being part of our educational system and not the enemy as my former GOP friends today believe. However, I will not be kissing their behinds or supporting a blank check. There is a need for private and charter schools and oversight of the educational establishment the same way you need oversight over police and other public servants. I support law and order and the death penalty, but that does not mean I give the cop union the treasury and ignore the abuses and crinials who wear badges.

    Bottom line for me is that Pinnacle is a great tool and being able to email a teacher about something is a time saver. I do not expect teachers to do this on their off hours the saem way I do not expect to conduct my companies business off hours unless compensated.

  8. Becky Blackwood says:

    Has anyone thought of any alternative solution such as doing a partnership with our local colleges with education majors? These college students could serve an internship at our local schools, not only getting teaching experience in advance but assisting in posting homework assignments for the students on line and contacting the parents if a student is not completing their homework or even assisting some students with their homework if they have no afterschool help from a parent.

    I pitched this idea to the BTU this past summer and their president at the time nixed it and stated he was waiting for their teacher assistants to be hired back.

    Teacher internships were in place in the 60′s. How about bringing them back instead of waiting for the state legislature to fund teacher assistants?

    Solutions are a lot better than the status quo.

  9. oh really says:

    @excompassionate conservative-

    no brevity but well said
    thankx for memories of those nuns and yeah theie behavior would not fly today

  10. just one vote says:

    “I pitched this idea to the BTU this past summer and their president at the time nixed it and stated he was waiting for their teacher assistants to be hired back.”

    this just shows that getting the students help, whether from parents, caregivers involvement, competent volunteers free tutoring, etc etc is NOT what teachsers and union want. they want tax dollars and more tax dollars – to bring back these teachers assistants. Is their job and their pay tied to IMPROVING STUDENT performance?

  11. excompassionateconservative says:

    My desire is that teachers get paid reasonable, but I also want health care workers, retail workers etc to also make a decent buck. As a parent and consumer I do expect performance and service to match those wages.

    This leads to an intersting paradox I suggested my kids ask in class. If I hear a union head tell me that higher wages are required for better teachers, how will you get rid of unprofessional employees?

    If you tell me that you will work better with more money, then does that not tell me that you are not working up to par now?

    Being in health care I benefitted from doing internships at local Broward hospitals as part of my education. However, I have also seen some managers overly rely on the advanced students to solve their staff and budget problems. This is a big deal because I do not wish to be performing the same work for zero pay and displacing an employee. It is aslo unfair to taxpayers who are paying to run a hospital as well as patients and insurance providers who are paying a cost based on real employees and not students.

    This can all be worked out to the benefit of all involved. However, as much as I support the rights of unions and employees, I will tell them to kiss by big white ass if they become pig headed and refuse to acknowledge who pays the f’n taxes.

    I think most tax payers will have this attitide which will explain why the attacks on unions do not always bring the outrage the very well off union head thinks will happen.

    Say FU to parents and taxpayers and we can also do the same to you.

    “Oh Really” There is a lot of mythology about “the good old days”. Every time I and my fellow employees who are my age and went to Catholic schools around the country discuss Catholic education in the past. We also see the criminal behaviour done and also see how priest abuses went on for so long.

    I truly thank God Catholic education has advnaced farther than the Church.

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