Communication is always the key
When it comes to technology in school, this publication is 100 percent in favor of getting as many newer, better, faster advancements into the hands of our educators and students as possible. While we may still use some antiquated technology ourselves (hey, it still works, clearly), we also understand the importance of training kids on the cutting edge tech that they will need to advance properly in life.
The current school administration has clearly placed an emphasis on upgrading outdated technology. They have brought in thousands of Chromebooks, ensuring that secondary students all have their own laptop to perform homework, do research and be on that cutting edge to compete with peers across the state and across the nation.
They have budgeted to bring in smarter technology, like Promethean Boards – which make the “Smart Boards” of the earlier 21st century look like Stone Age apparatuses – and have supplied students with iMacs for better editing software in music and arts programs, and streamlined servers to make highly demanding programs, such as programs for computer-aided design, run better and more efficiently.
In most districts, such a clear dedication to improve technology within the schools – especially in a district where such efforts have been either pushed off or outright ignored for decades – would be heralded, and the administration would be cheered.
However this is Warwick, where unfortunately it seems a permanent divide and distrust has been seeded through two separate, lengthy and nasty contract disputes and a revolving door of administrators who come in, introduce an agenda, fail to accomplish it or accomplish half of it, and then go elsewhere, leaving the students and staff to pick up the pieces.
The purpose of this editorial is not to demonize one side in particular, as that seems to be the very problem which belies any issue that comes to the surface in the district. Perceived slights and lack of respect and a failure to properly communicate policies or ask for feedback on policies prior to implementation results in teachers, perhaps in some cases reasonably, not trusting the administration to act in their best interest.
In the specific case of technology, teachers should know well enough that kids deserve better than overhead projectors from the 90s and cathode ray tube monitors. They should also be cognizant that learning has indeed shifted to a more online format, and that some technology – due to this reason – is only going to become more obsolete. They must be able to adapt to a changing learning environment, just as students must.
However administrators must also realize that teachers are the lifeblood of any educational system. While it is impossible to enact widespread changes in a school district without ruffling the feathers of people who are set in their ways, it should also be a top priority to ensure that their motivations, and the reasons for them, are clear. They should ensure that the opinions of those who may have questions about initiatives are valued and, even if they can’t make decisions based on these opinions, they should at the very least be heard out.
Moving forward, when dealing with what technology should be discarded or retired from use, a teacher should be able to make a case for why they still use a certain piece of technology, and why they would like to continue using it. It will be readily apparent from a short conversation whether or not there is a legitimate use for that piece of technology, or if the teacher simply wants to hold onto it for comfort and nostalgia’s sake.
In summary, upgrading technology shouldn’t happen without teachers being aware of what is going to be upgraded, or why it’s being upgraded. Teachers should also have some format to offer their opinion into the matter, even if that opinion turns out to not be a good enough reason to warrant keeping the item.
It is understandable that the district’s administrators must make difficult choices for what they believe is the most benefit to all, but if those choices alienate enough people that it causes an overall negative impact on the morale of the teaching staff, then no amount of new technology will make up for the harm it causes the schools and, by extension, the students.