"Digging in on Digital Equity, Part 2" via Wes Kriesel

Good morning, ISTE Digital Equity Network!

Please see below the following blog post by Leadership Team member Wes Kriesel, originally published at https://medium.com/digital-equity/digging-in-on-digital-equity-part-2-feb7edbabbe8on August 12, 2017.

Let me catch you up on what happened at the principal meeting.

Me: “So since we are both new to the district, tell me more about your site so I can get a better sense of where we are and what you see ahead this year.”

Principal: “This is the oldest school site in the district, and it’s in an older part of the city, and there are higher rates of poverty here than other places. The school is fairly small, and part of that is because we are not known for anything like STEM, or VAPA, so parents have been pulling their kids out and sending them to other schools in the district that are offering attractive or unique programs. I think we are the smallest school in the district. We have a lot of Spanish-speaking parents and I’m seeing that we have a small group of very involved parents, and a bigger group — most of our parents — who don’t seem to engage with the school at all.”

Photo by Charlie Deets on Unsplash

Me: “This campus is gorgeous.”

Principal: “It was renovated in 2000 and M&O takes a spectacular job of keeping the grounds looking sharp.”

Me: “Tell me about your staff.”

Principal: “This is a highly skilled staff. I came from ______ (name of large urban district) and we literally spent a lot of professional development time helping teachers logging in to Google or their various apps. Clerical staff in my former district had trouble with using Office products and your standard Google apps. Here? Our first staff meeting everyone was taking notes on a collaborative Google document, with no complaints or struggles! I knew I was in a different place.”

Me: “Interesting, so what’s your next step in terms of proficiency with technology with the adults?”

Principal: “I will want to see technology use with students and get a better idea where they are with implementation, like using the SAMR model as a lens.”

Me: “Okay, shall we dive into the issue at hand? Tell me about the take-home device initiative you mentioned.”

Principal: “The district has a grades 5–8 take home program and every student in grades 5–8 has an device and takes it home. I want to send the devices home with grades K-4, but…..”

Me: “But what?”

Principal: “The first teacher I talked to — a very enthusiastic, well-respected, innovative teacher — told me that she thought we shouldn’t do that because the students would look at inappropriate websites at home. At my last school, we had a one to one, take home initiative, and the students were doing amazing things like working on research for their passion projects.”

Me: “Sounds great. How did you respond to the teacher’s objections?”

Principal: “To be honest, I was sort of stumped by what she said. I’m regrouping because she objected very strongly and said that the older brothers and sisters would show the younger ones how to find the inappropriate websites and she needed guarantees that the internet filter system we use would block every inappropriate website.”

Me: “She sounds very passionate and like she cares deeply about protecting her students.”

Principal: “Yes, that’s a way to look at it. I suppose I took it a little personally — not that I reacted that way, but I didn’t feel supported, and since I’m new I just decided to do a little more research with other teachers.”

Me: “And did you do that?”

Principal: “Not yet.”

Me: “Okay, let’s put together a plan.”

We went on to discuss how Saturday school opportunities, parent technology classes, and a strategically segmented rollout by grade level could be part of the approach. I said I would type up our notes as a working draft of a plan for a one to one, take-home initiative for grades K-4 and share it with my boss. I told him that I had heard there was another principal interested in the same initiative, and I set a goal of recruiting one more principal to join in.

Me: “If I got two other principals, would you be willing to be a part of a support group/think tank for this initiative so we could share our journey with the other principals who might go down this road?”

Principal: “Yes, definitely. I’d love to have someone to talk to about how it’s going.”

Me: “Okay, your job is to explore with a few other teachers how they feel about this and what they view as roadblocks, obstacles, or objections. I’ll come back after shaping our notes into a plan.”

- Back at the office -

Assistant Superintendent: (hearing a rundown of the conversation) “My fear is that our Title 1 schools might be viewing the students as not as capable as students in our more well-off neighborhoods; that’s not okay. We are going to dig into this and make sure that we do everything possible to support these students so they get access to their devices 24 hours a day.”

To be continued….