Proper and Cost-Effective Management of 1:1 Learning Spending

A proper and cost-effective management of 1:1 learning spending could help stop the need for tax increases.  Our concerns of the effective management of 1:1 learning with iPads stems partly from the District's internal report.  It shows that the District is not effectively and regularly using the expensive taxpayer funded equipment.   We are advocating the partial redirection of the maintenance and technology funds to the general fund so that the money is used effectively.  This will  relieve budget pressures and possibly help end the need for tax increases.

They used the Puentadura SAMR Model in a report provided at a November of 2015 board meeting.   The SAMR Model is an evaluation method that defines the effectiveness of 1:1 technology classroom lessons.

“The SAMR Model for integrating technology into teaching, developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, has gained a good deal of exposure in recent years. ‘SAMR’ is an acronym that stands for Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition. The SAMR model provides a technique for moving through degrees of technology adoption to find more meaningful uses of technology in teaching and move away from simply using ‘tech for tech’s sake’.  “   - Kelly Walsh, EmergingTechEd

Below is an example of taking a lesson and determining its educational effectiveness using the SAMR Model. Taken from:

Original Assignment: A hand written paper.

Substitution: A Word Processor replaces a Pen/Pencil in a Writing Assignment.

Augmentation: A Word Processor and text-to-speech function are used to improve the writing process.

Modification: The document created using the Word Processor and text-to-speech function is shared on a blog where feedback can be received and incorporated to help improve the quality of writing.

Redefinition: Instead of a written assignment, students convey analytic thought using multimedia tools.

Here is another link describing the SAMR model.

Click here for the report submitted to the Board in November of 2015.  Look specifically at slide 5. What the District's internal study, based upon the Puentadura SAMR Model, shows is that the number of teachers that actually use iPads in lessons once a day is only 29% of the respondents.   They then only used the devices at the Substitution level.  This, according to the metric they used to judge themselves, is not as worthwhile a use of the costly technology.  Furthermore, only 45% of the teachers even bothered to responded to the survey.   We can only assume that the other 55% who did not respond to the survey would report few, if any, of their lessons utilized the iPads and certainly not at the highest level. 

We believe that 1:1 technology in the classroom will help children learn and are not advocating the end of this program.  The utilization of the technology assets, however, is an area that we believe the highest paid Administrative staff in the state should better manage.  We are not sure how much can be saved from this $2.5 Million annual budget but evidence points to some savings.  There are things, however, that cannot be cut and applied to other areas and we certainly recognize that.  This budget pays for such things as IT salaries, upkeep on computer infrastructure, and maintenance on the website and student management system. Our goal, if Prop K fails, would be to help determine that with the District to rightsize the budget and pass a measure to mainstream the technology and maintenance funds into the general budget.  Our pledge is to support that measure if the District puts it on the ballot.

In our great teaching staff's defense, it is hard to convert a traditional lesson to a technology lesson.  It takes a lot of work and effort to do this.  The professional development is just the beginning of this process.  Also, our teachers may have great traditional lessons that do the job without 1:1 technology.  Technology may or may not offer the best way to instruct students on a particular topic.  The self-directedness of small children to use such devices is also an issue at lower grade levels.  It is just common-sense not to give an expensive computer to a Kindergartner.  Also, Kirkwood reports the second lowest percentage of students in St. Louis County receiving Free or Reduced Lunch.  This is an indicator of family wealth and points to the fact that most families in the district have computers in the home.

We believe that if some portion the technology fund was redirected and placed into the operating fund the district could more effectively fund all operations.  They could unlock funds in budget silo’s that get wasted on devices that are unused or ineffectively used.

We approached the District on this topic last year once we reviewed the report.  We met with Dr. Bryan Painter, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction, Board Member Bret Heinrich, Randy Friedline, Director of Technology Services, Mike Romay, CFO, and several other staff members on March 25, 2016.  We asked them to explain the non-use and under-utilization of the equipment.  Their response was that they had just done another study using the SAMR model and that they would publish the results in late 2016.  We then started to encourage the District to redirect the funds and cited the report.   They never published the updated report and they never replied to our request for the results despite promises to do so.  Click here for the email chain.  Until the results from the similar study using the same metric is made available there is no evidence that they are now effectively managing the technology spend.

We also are concerned about the cavalier attitude of the board towards spending taxpayer money on something that is not proven to be effectively used.  Here is a video clip of former Board President, EJ Miller, saying, "Let's not forget we have a technology fund to continuously upgrade and refresh our technology”    Click here for the video of the board meeting His comments start at 12:30.

Other options can and could include the use of Chrome Books instead of iPads.  They are less costly and easier to manage.  This is certainly a national trend.  Another option is to use device carts so that teachers can access the technology in the classroom when the devices are needed. Another common-sense management practice is to let teachers that are willing to convert their lessons grow the 1:1 program organically by giving those pioneers the them funding and technology.  Then, if and when it is successful for one teacher within a grade level or discipline the others could follow their example and be granted the same resources.