kitchen table math, the sequel: budget vote

Friday, May 4, 2007

budget vote

So the budget vote is coming up, and we are asked to OK the purchase of many new SMART Boards.

How many new SMART Boards, you ask?

I have no idea.

However many it is will be too many for me.

The district needs fields; I need tile on my outer bathroom floor.

I don't mean that I need new tile on my outer bathroom floor.

I need tile, period.

Currently we have plywood on the bathroom floor, and have had since we moved in 8 years ago.

At that time, as I recall, the outer bathroom had the same green wall to wall carpet the bedroom did.

We pulled up the carpet and installed a hardwood floor in the bedroom, but we didn't want a wood floor in a bathroom, even an outer bathroom (sinks only), and we ran out of money before we got around to buying tile.

Never really got ahead of the curve on the money thing thereafter.


I don't want SMART Boards.

I want tile.

Also fields.

Ed went to the Board meeting at which SMART Boards were discussed and was pretty much hooted down by all assembled. Teachers want SMART Boards, parents want SMART Boards, the Board wants SMART Boards -- it's a consensus!

So naturally I fired off a Yahoo op-ed on the subject of SMART Boards, the systematic hiring of novice teachers instead of experienced and/or expert teachers, opportunity costs, bringing the internet into the classroom, and etc.

I don't know what gets into me.

Our schools are going to have (more) SMART Boards, and I am going to pay for them.

The only good news around here is that God is on my side.

On the front page of today's New York Times, complete with large color photo of high school students actively engaged in not learning anything at school:

The students at Liverpool High have used their school-issued laptops to exchange answers on tests, download pornography and hack into local businesses. When the school tightened its network security, a 10th grader not only found a way around it but also posted step-by-step instructions on the Web for others to follow (which they did).
Scores of the leased laptops break down each month, and every other morning, when the entire school has study hall, the network inevitably freezes because of the sheer number of students roaming the Internet instead of getting help from teachers.

So the Liverpool Central School District, just outside Syracuse, has decided to phase out laptops starting this fall, joining a handful of other schools around the country that adopted one-to-one computing programs and are now abandoning them as educationally empty — and worse.

Many of these districts had sought to prepare their students for a technology-driven world and close the so-called digital divide between students who had computers at home and those who did not.

After seven years, there was literally no evidence it had any impact on student achievement — none,” said Mark Lawson, the school board president here in Liverpool, one of the first districts in New York State to experiment with putting technology directly into students’ hands.

Yup, and I'm guessing back when they bought all those laptops there wasn't much discussion of precisely how much and within what timeframe student achievement was expected to increase once the entire student body could surf the internet at school.

"Preparing students for a technology-driven world" and "closing the digital divide" was probably reason enough to sink zillions of tax dollars into educational technology.


...... moving right along .....

Oh, look!

More happy taxpayers!

Here in Liverpool, parents have long criticized the cost of the laptop program: about $300,000 a year from the state, plus individual student leases of $25 a month, or $900 from 10th to 12th grades, for the take-home privilege.

“I feel like I was ripped off,” said Richard Ferrante, explaining that his son, Peter, used his laptop to become a master at the Super Mario Brothers video game. “And every time I write my check for school taxes, I get mad all over again.”

schools investing heavily!

More than a decade ago, schools began investing heavily in laptops at the urging of school boards and parent groups who saw them as the key to the 21st century classroom. Following Maine’s lead in 2002, states including Michigan, Pennsylvania and South Dakota helped buy laptops for thousands of students through statewide initiatives like “Classrooms for the Future” and “Freedom to Learn.” In New York City, about 6,000 students in 22 middle schools received laptops in 2005 as part of a $45-million, three-year program financed with city, state and federal money.

Many school administrators and teachers say laptops in the classroom have motivated even reluctant students to learn, resulting in higher attendance and lower detention and dropout rates.

But it is less clear whether one-to-one computing has improved academic performance — as measured through standardized test scores and grades — because the programs are still new, and most schools have lacked the money and resources to evaluate them rigorously.

In one of the largest ongoing studies, the Texas Center for Educational Research, a nonprofit group, has so far found no overall difference on state test scores between 21 middle schools where students received laptops in 2004, and 21 schools where they did not, though some data suggest that high-achieving students with laptops may perform better in math than their counterparts without.

ed professor says: they don't work, but buy them anyway!

Mark Warschauer, an education professor at the University of California at Irvine and author of “Laptops and Literacy: Learning in the Wireless Classroom” (Teachers College Press, 2006), also found no evidence that laptops increased state test scores in a study of 10 schools in California and Maine from 2003 to 2005. Two of the schools, including Rea Elementary, have since eliminated the laptops.

But Mr. Warschauer, who supports laptop programs, said schools like Liverpool might be giving up too soon because it takes time to train teachers to use the new technology and integrate it into their classes. For instance, he pointed to students at a middle school in Yarmouth, Me., who used their laptops to create a Spanish book for poor children in Guatemala and debate Supreme Court cases found online.

Hold it right there, cowboy.

Middle school students using their laptops to create a Spanish book for poor children in Guatemala and debate Supreme Court cases found online is exactly why I don't want laptops or anything else that can be used to surf the internet in my kid's school.

Number one, you don't need a laptop to create a Spanish book for poor children in Guatemala. (Do poor children in Guatemala lack Spanish books? What, are they stuck with hand-me-down English books from the North?)

Number two, middle school students have no competence to debate Supreme Court cases; their teachers have limited to no competence to direct a middle school debate of Supreme Court cases (nor do I); no one has the ability to direct an educationally valuable, off-the-cuff middle school debate of a Supreme Court case that has been "found" on the internet.

If a middle school class is going to study a Supreme Court case, that lesson needs to be carefully structured, sequenced, and orchestrated by the teacher before she gets to class.

Not "found on the internet."

I say Liverpool should forget about laptops and invest in SMART Boards.


Good news!

Cliff Stoll has been proved wrong!

how much does a light bulb for the SMART Board cost?
replacement light bulbs for the SMART Board
budget vote
more and ever more SMART Boards


KathyIggy said...

I learned last week at our middle school parent orientation that the middle school is getting 4 SMART boards. That was after the principal's talk which began with "the best piece of advice for new middle school parents I have is 'let the teachers do their jobs' and not to ambush them with confrontational phone calls/emails." There was also a "subtle" plug to "support the schools" (by more taxes) since they are so overcrowded. The district is wanting to build a 4th middle school and I think 2 or 3 elementaries in the next 5-6 years. Megan's team will be in a portable classroom in the parking lot. I've heard good things about special ed at this school, but that parent meeting left a bad taste in my mouth. I guess we'll have to see.

NYC Educator said...

I've never used a smart board, but I love whiteboards. For some reason, they make my awful handwriting legible.

I've posted my two cents on laptops (among other things) above.

Exo said...

We have 3 Smartboards in thev school, but I was unable to lay my hands on one... They are used by 3 literacy teachers... god knows for what.
i could barely get my principle to get me some(not replace ALL) desks this year, because my classroom is a shame to let the kids in... I am mentioning the a/c or a simple fan.
Laptops, smartboards... books, that's what I need! And everything else I can perfectly do with "chalk and talk")))

Rudbeckia Hirta said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Catherine Johnson said...




Catherine Johnson said...


Anonymous said...

How much do the things cost?

? said...

SmartBoards - I have one. At the risk of losing my computer geek club card, SmartBoards are a waste of valuable dollars.

Most of the "lessons" on a SmartBoard are hide-and-reveal. One can create some interesting material with Geometer's Sketchpad. In fact, after attending a sales pitch session at a "cutting edge" SmartBoard classroom, the presenter could not find any way her lesson could not have been done on an overhead project.

The SmartBoard is usualy centred on the wall, monopolizing the space. Since only one person can writing on it at a time, unless you are creative with other laptops and Bluetooth, the process of taking up math questions is exceptionally slow.

Primary teachers tend to use the SmartBoard as a centre. It is a costly spot in the classroom in my opinion.

Reviews of the usefulness of SmartBoard usually focus on student engagement, not student achievement. How exciting!

RH is absolutely correct in her note saving comment. In the year and a bit that one has graced my wall, I have printed off less than five items for students looking for missed information. Once again, the overhead had a scroll on it so all our notes were saved.

As for posting the information, I love the idea. I have thought about doing it myself to complement all the other material I post. If there was a payoff, people actually using it online, then I think I would do it. Since the net traffic on the Parent Communication Calendar is zero, I haven't taken the time to transfer the documents to pdf.

? said...

1. PC Table
2. Beamer, or projector

Better features, like handwriting recognition, and exceptionally portable.

To add student participation, you buy a Bluetooth Wacom Graphire3 tablet.

? said...

Yeah...that would be PC Tablet, not PC Table. Obviously more coffee is needed this morning.

Catherine Johnson said...


thanks so much!!

Catherine Johnson said...

books, that's what I need! And everything else I can perfectly do with "chalk and talk"

well, guess what we're short on?


we have so few books in the library that the PTSA is raising money to buy books, and the school removed a bunch of shelves so we wouldn't all be looking at empty shelves

and a mom told me that social studies texts for some high school class arrived in....March?

Something like that?

There've been all kinds of missing textbooks, with accompanying mystery over the issue

School board says we now have all our textbooks, but another parent who's been tracking the situation says no

I know at least one parent who was told the reason the high school kids didn't read more novels than they did last fall was that the school didn't have enough books to go around

Let me put it this way: I see no evidence that books are number one of the "list."

Dickey45 said...

If I were ever granted a position as a teacher in a 3-5 classroom, I would take my own laptop and LCD projector, have the boyfriend mount the projector for me (I don't know how it got there?) and use it to incorporate images and video clips for my "boring" Direct Instruction. Cost to me: about $1000 up front and about $600 per year for the extra bulbs. I already have my own crappy laptop. Cost to the taxpayer $0.

It would be the ONLY thing I would want as a teacher - laptop and LCD projector. I just bought a wacom graphire 3 off craigslist for $50. Hope to try it out soon. I don't mind the overhead projector but they seem to take lots of room, require reprinting of anything you use and need to change, and are bulky with limited usability. I'd want to get rid of the TV and VCR and instead use the laptop with DVD player and installed LCD Projector. Let's just say I have a way of converting from VHS to DVD.

Just my 2 cents.

I realize that electronics are fun. I've used the laptop for DI scripted material and also I've used spiral bound books where the pages keep falling out. If the laptop screen were taller than wider, I'd have to say it is easier to use a laptop for teacher instructional material (that I have to read from because it is scripted) than a book that I always stress about because they cost so much money and pages keep falling out.

? said...


Once you fire up your Graphire, try this drawing application, Art Rage 2( You can load an image and trace it, or copy an image placed on your tablet. It's another zero dollar solution for the classroom.

Dickey45 said...

Cool, thanks.

Here are some pics for you: