The Right Tool for the Right Job
How Do I Stop Being a Frustrated Parent?

The Right Tool for the Job

Today’s children are expected to learn through the use of computer. The teacher is the facilitator of learning and the computer is where the information is disseminated. The teacher is there for direction and questioning.

What is the role of the teacher? What is the role of the computer? Which tool is needed for which job? When you have a question who is going to answer it? Who is going to meet the individual needs of the student? The technology proponents state the computers are so smart they know what your child needs and when, in addition the computer is much more engaging that the activities a teacher will put together. The social emotional proponents state the opposite, true learning must be connected to people. Who’s right?

Society has made it an expectation that children have not only a cell phone but a smartphone. Then because we have enabled and entitled our children to demand this technology, it has embolden them to demand it in the schools as well. Before COVID, schools were fighting for children’s attention because it’s not as fun and exciting as the video game they play at home on their xbox or playstation. 

Close your eyes…Just imagine it’s Monday morning…You are going to trim your toenails and you are not getting a pedicure, it’s COVID. You can’t get that done. You scour the house looking for nail trimmers, scissors…anything that will cut. Your child comes up to you with these loppers for the garden. With a smile on his face, he says, “Will these help?” You bust out laughing and think to yourself how ridiculous would this be to use those loppers to trim your toenails.

Toenail Trimmer?
Toenail Trimmer?

Now that you are all dried off and before you do your hair and make up, Mom, it’s time to brush your teeth. Your last toothbrush fell in the toilet, when your kids were playing tag in the bathroom. So what tool will you use to take care of those pearly whites? You look under the sink and see the perfect tool for your mouth…It looks plenty big enough to get in there and get the job done, right?

Brush Your Teeth!
Brush Your Teeth!

Now your hair is dry (the fan worked perfectly by the way) and it’s time to get ready for work, but you can’t find your hair brush…What are you going to do? Ariel, in The Little Mermaid, used a fork and that’s just ridiculous. So your precious angel who is always a helper goes around the house to find just the right tool to help mom this morning. After spending some time in the shed, your little love comes into the bathroom with this wonderful tool to help you get the knots out of your hair and fix yourself up for the day. Nothing like the right tool to complete the job!

Brush Your Hair?
Brush Your Hair?

Now it’s time for breakfast. There is no time for cooking, when getting ready took so long…It’s amazing how much time it takes to use a tool that is inefficient! Your sweet boy got everything ready for you to eat breakfast. Your kitchen is a mess, you haven’t done dishes all week and there is nothing clean to eat on or with. And like any good child, rather than wash a dish to eat with a clean one, he looks for something to substitute. Luckily you have taught your child to be adaptable and creative. There are no problems, only solutions in your home! Sometimes you think about fasting… Today is one of those days!!

Shovel It In?
Shovel It In?

That thoughtful child who set up your breakfast decided having cake for breakfast is a better option than cereal, so check out the tool he has decided should be used to cut the cake before moving it to another dish to dirty… Distance learning begins in the next 30 minutes and focus is needed, not sure how cake will help the learning for that child when math time comes in 3 hours and the sugar low smacks him in the face ready for a nap.

Let Them Eat Cake!
Let Them Eat Cake!

You decide to step outside on the lunch break and see the mess on the patio… You saw the shovel close by, so why bend over and pick up anything you have just the right tool for the job! Although, I’m still not sure this is the right tool for the job, it’s not too bad.

Clean Up Your Mess!
Clean Up Your Mess!

Work is done for the day and you want a drink to take the edge off, is there enough in the bottle for the daiquiris you have planned? Well let’s measure and see! If this hasn’t been enough for the day, maybe we should just put a straw in the bottle and veg out in front of the tv before bed and do it all over again tomorrow?

How Much Do You Need?
How Much Do You Need?

If these were the best tools we had for the jobs above would it be sufficient? Would we be satisfied? Would we be happy getting ready for the day?

Now we are in the age of the ubiquitousness of computers. We carry them in our hands. Over 40 years ago they took up a large room to do simple calculations with punch cards which had to be programmed by hand. For the last 30 years they have made their way into the schools and affect how the practice of education has changed. 

I remember being in 6th grade and our class would go to the portable with all the computers to learn something. My mom at the time was the computer teacher for our school and it was pretty cool. In our small Catholic school in SanDiego, we had computers. 

I remember having a Tandy laptop at home. The thing was as big as a briefcase and even folded up like one. It sat in the living room by the front door. There was no internet and I played Oregon Trail. Mom was always able to see what we were doing on it though.

Through junior and senior high school I had to take a word processing/typing course, which now serves me quite well as I can type fairly quickly and fix my mistakes fast too. The number of friends I have who don’t know how to use the finger placement and home row keys to maximize their efficiency with typing astounds me. I don’t know how they hunt and peck to type. It’s painful for me to watch. 

When I went to college full time I had a laptop I took with me to class. I remember the most important decision I made when looking for my seat in the room was where there is an outlet so I could make sure I could charge my laptop while I took notes. Funny we could not find many outlets 25 years ago when I started college and now they are all over the place.

I remember taking a course in my undergrad on making a webquest for my students to use learning about Hawaii. I still have the project. I never did use that webquest with students. Through the 20 years in the classroom and even as a technology specialist the evolution of technology has been in some ways subtle. But if you worked in a school where technology was an expectation, it was not so subtle.

My first assignment as a technology specialist had five computer labs (three for checkout) and few classrooms had more than two computers for student use when I got to the school. Seven years later, we had six computer labs (four of them were used for check out), four ipod checkout carts, four laptop carts and every room had at least four computers for student use. Computers were everywhere and we were adapting a BYOD (bring your own device) program for the middle school students we served. 

Ten years ago, we were focused on digital citizenship, cyber bullying was a brand new thing and schools had to figure out how to navigate these waters. Children were getting cell phones. My daughter didn’t get her first smartphone until she was a sophomore. I was the parent who made my kids work for the things they receive. She earned AB honor roll for two years, as was my requirement, and she got the iphone she wanted. It was never a thing with her that she was entitled to the technology. I can’t say the same thing for my boys. I had my rules and those rules were not the requirements their father values. My boys have an addiction to technology and the entitlement of that technology that my daughter does not have. 

Now I have my Masters Degree in Education with a focus on Curriculum and Instruction. What does that mean anyway? Not much. Anyone with a masters in education probably has a focus on Curriculum and Instruction. The next part of the degree is where the specialty comes into play. My masters is in Technology Leadership. This means I have taken course work on integrating technology into educational lessons, technology fixing and teaching others how to do both. 

I loved doing this job, but I told myself that I was going to work myself out of the job, because teachers would learn everything they needed to know to integrate technology. It didn’t occur to me that technology would evolve in the manner it had. But I did see this type of learning coming when I got my masters in 2007. I was teaching teachers how to do blended learning, by recording Khan Academy style videos for their students to watch and allow students to do their work when in the classroom with the teacher readily present to answer questions.

After returning to the math classroom in 2012, due to budget cuts, implementing this seemed like a really good idea. Kids could use the “homework time” to learn and take notes in their own time and together in class we could work out problems. This was an issue back then with access. If a student didn’t have access to the internet to watch the video for homework, they were unable to get the necessary information to learn. Smart phones were relatively new and all the access we have today was not there. So this method of teaching and learning was done in different parts of the city where access was not an issue.

The reason the tool matters is because there are so many for so many different jobs and even today more tools are being invented to make our lives easier. We have now given our children not only a smartphone and game system to play with, but now to learn on a computer. If we remember that a computer is a tool to do a job more efficiently, then we can help our children to realize they have great power in themselves to think and act and move through use of technology which we put in their hands.

However, if we fail to teach our children how to use the technology, they will be crippled with a device which cost a couple hundred dollars they expect to do the work for them. It will read to them and calculate for them, but it will not think for them. Children who can’t critically think will be crippled in the future, because the job they will have in the future, quite possibly doesn’t exist today.

Knowing what tool to use for your work is critical for your efficiency and effectiveness. Today’s mathematician would not consider doing their work without the use of technology – calculator or computer to check on calculations, but as great as the technology is, it has to be programmed by a person. A person still needs to use their creative mind to tell the computer what to do.

According CBSNews.com article from February 2019, “Robots haven’t successfully replaced the cashiers, tellers and customer-service reps that interact with customers, and technology to fully automate activities like driving still seems far away.”

If people think the computer technology is going to save them, they are in for a rude awakening. This awakening usually happens when they apply to college and reality smacks them in the face. Students are not ready for the thinking required at the collegiate level. Why is this? Back in 2001, there was a study which said “Math Matters.” This study found that there was a correlation to the level of mathematical knowledge a child had at graduation to the level of income they would achieve in their adult life. This study started the requirement of algebra for all graduating from a public school. 

We know that the skills people have when it comes to math makes a big difference in their financial life long term. People who understand the math don’t shy away from understanding their budget, paycheck and checkbook. People who do not understand math tend to have more problems with money. In fact, in 2020, if you were to drive around your city, where do you find payday loan businesses? You will not find them in the middle class or upper class neighborhoods. In the more affluent areas, you won’t find a Walmart either. People who have money know what they don’t want access to and make sure they are involved in the politics to make sure of it.

We know that education reform has been an issue up for discussion in every social circle. The business owner wants to know what needs to be done to create a more dedicated and responsible workforce. Parents want their children to make a good living and move out of their home. The government wants participating members of society who pay their taxes. Everyone has an opinion on what makes a “good” citizen for our country and how education could be changed to make this perfect citizen come out of the institution ready to work for the greater good of society. Everyone also has an opinion of what makes a good teacher, what should be taught and how it should be taught; because everyone has gone to school so they are an expert.

Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were adopted in 45 out of 50 states in 2009. They purport to address the deficits in students being college and career ready. Well if we do the math on this, the first students who will have been in school their entire career to have access to these standards won’t graduate for another year or two. So to be fair these students entering college haven’t been ready and experienced the CCSS their entire academic life; but rather than being more prepared for college through the implementation of these standards as an expectation in schools, there has been a decline in college readiness in not only math but reading too.

The adoption of these standards has been a matter of contention for a decade. Due to the way they were adopted, most parents believe that common core is gone. Far from it actually. What states did instead, is rename that standards for their state and make minor adaptations to the standard language. But for 45 states you can pull up those standards and compare them side by side and see they are virtually identical in the expectation for students to achieve.

Access to quality mathematics education has been a problem for students for years. According to MSU, “Schools Worsen Inequality, Especially in Math Instruction”. Colleges are finding students are not prepared for the level of understanding that university work requires. Because students are not prepared they are spending more money to get prepared through lower level courses which have become prerequisites to 100+ level courses. 

WHY?! 

Here’s what I think. I think through the increase of homeschooling and charter schools where these standards have not been the expectation to teach, has skewed the data. Parents have fought the CCSS because it is vastly different from the way they learned as well. Parents have pulled their children out of public education in an effort to teach them the curriculum they value, which they have a right to do. Parents who have chosen to leave their children in the public education system, have not been properly educated to the standard language, expectation and how to support this learning at home. If a student is of an at risk population (minority, low income, immigrant, low education in the home, single family home, parents unavailable for support of the child, etc) they are at an even greater risk of not understanding the standards and expectations for learning in the school.

I also believe what I have seen in the schools. I have worked as a coach in schools for over half the time since we have been a CCSS district. Teachers have been fighting implementing these standards with fidelity. They have clung to their old ways of thinking and teaching. This is a similar way of thinking that parents have. Give me a worksheet or textbook with the answers and I can teach them.

I have been on social media through this COVID pandemic and have found so many parents looking for solutions in the answer of a worksheet or program. The question I see on homeschooling groups is about what curriculum do I buy/use? Here’s my question, if you don’t know how to implement that curriculum. how useful is it? If they are not available to answer your questions, how helpful is it? Do they provide the instruction or is that something you have to learn how to deliver? 

Having a textbook with answers does not make anyone a teacher. Teachers have learned how to meet the needs of many learners while developing engaging activities to reach those learners using different modalities and learning styles as they address distracting learner behaviors without yelling, screaming and hitting kids. Are you ready for what is in store for you?

Today, in 2020, parents are taking over the role of the teacher in their home. Not all parents are equipped with the same tools, but the job is the same: ensure your child learns what the school is telling you they need to know. What is being done to help parents without the tools? 

Today’s learning environment is different. Today’s learner is different. Today’s parents are different. We are all evolving and changing with the times and now more than ever, we are challenged to work together. Together we can do it. I believe you can too. Our company began out of this need – wanting to help families bridge the gap and meet the needs of their children with their education. 

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