Back to school time, and soon, whether you are parent or teacher, you'll be in meetings with those who administrate. So here are a few questions to ask...
How does this school teach contemporary communications technology? Do our students learn to write a business email? Do they learn how to apply for a job online? Are they taught how to send a "business style" text message to a hypothetical employer? What about appropriate voice mail messages (both outgoing and incoming)? Can they send an email from their mobile phone that an employer can understand? Do the students learn the etiquette of selecting appropriate email addresses for themselves? If not, how will they become employable?
How does this school teach contemporary research? What is the curriculum as it relates to effective use of Google, Google Scholar, Wikipedia, Library Resources? How are search terms taught? How do we show students how to analyze the quality of information received via searches? How do we show students how to document their searches? If not, how will our students succeed in either college or high-level professions?
How does this school prepare students to learn new technologies? Our sixth graders will graduate into a technological world we cannot quite yet imagine: what is being done to prepare them to comfortably play with and learn all the new, and essential to employment, technologies that will appear across their lifespans? Are computers set up to re-image themselves, so students can "play" without causing any real damage? Are teachers allowed to download and install software to investigate? Is there "a low cost" to failure when students try new things and new methods? If not, aren't we preparing our students for the best jobs of five years ago?
How does this school embrace Universal Design Technology? Are students with "disabilities" and "differences" being actively encouraged to test and discover technology solutions for those things they have difficulties with? Do we teach the proper set up of spell-checking, grammar-checking, and Auto-Correct in Microsoft Word? Do we demonstrate spell check in Firefox? in Email programs? Do we have alternative keyboards and mice? Do we have (at very least) the free literacy support software - CLiCk, Speak - NaturalReader - Microsoft Reader - installed on every school computer? Is Speech Recognition routinely available? Screen magnification? If a struggling reader tests badly do we try the test with text-to-speech software? Do we always favor tech solutions that promote independence over "we'll read to you - write for you" solutions that promote dependence? If not, how will these students become independent?
- Ira Socol