Georgia's education system is broke. I don't mean its broke in a way that Georgia is behind in achievement, but you could make a case for that. I mean it's broke in a way that there is just no money. The economy is bad, but it seems to be recovering. Yet Georgia's education systems are trying to figure out budget deficits on almost a yearly basis. This has killed the support of education technology in schools.
Inherently, the budget crisis puts Georgia behind. Many school districts all over the country have begun implementing 1 to 1 programs to bridge the achievement gap. How long will it be before this has to come to public high schools in Georgia? At this point, the answer to that question is it does not matter. When you have teachers and instructional technology specialist getting cut on a regular basis, you can't afford to add a 1 to 1 program. This proves Georgia students are at a disadvantage. If they can't learn basic technology through their studies in grade school, how will they be able to compete for the high technology jobs of the 21st century?
If we do come to a point where we can have 1 to 1 programs, how can we provide the necessary professional development to serve them? Personally, I have been looking for an education technology job for 8 months. There are just not many of them in Georgia because of the budget crisis. Jobs that do exist, exist with the possibility that they will get cut. This leaves Georgia's educators very underserved. What will these teachers do as the technology becomes more ubiquitous with things such as the implementation of 1 to 1 programs? There only way to learn is from a few instructional technology specialists that support multiple schools. We have to do something. It's time to bring an organization to Georgia similar to the one Kevin Honeycutt works for in Kansas.
This organization would provide cheap and interactive professional development to Georgia teachers for a fair and low price. This would give teachers the tools in their toolbox that they all need while giving districts a way to provide that support at a fraction of the cost. This organization would be strictly a non-profit that is there to serve the needs of the educators in the state. We could start with a very small staff that works to schedule, build relationships, and raise money. Our professional developers could be strictly on a part time consultant basis so we could get the best education technology experts in Georgia. This would be an organization that is always there for the districts, and one that works to build whatever workshop the district needs. We could start with education technology needs and expand from there. It could be funded through local business partnerships and perhaps even a grant from the state level.
While it would be great to just train teachers on the technology of the future, we also have to find a way to put that technology into their hands. This organization would also have a teacher grant program. The entire goal of this program would be to put the best technology tools into the hands of the best and brightest minds in our schools without district interference. To be part of the program, teachers would have to go through a rigorous application process which includes both lesson plans and observations. If they were chosen they would get the technology of their dreams, but it would remain property of this new organization. It would basically be just like a rental. This benefits the teacher because this technology would follow them to any school that they move to in Georgia. This isn't something that is just given though. The teacher would have to agree to periodic observations to ensure that the technology is used, and they would have to go through training courses to insure that they could deal with any minor difficulty. If they successfully complete five years of this program, teachers could have that technology replaced with the newest model.
This blog is my initial flag up the flag pole. If you are a Georgia educator and you are passionate about education technology, I would love to hear your opinion. If you love the idea, I would also love to have help in order to get it off the ground. With the education system the way it is in Georgia, we have to think differently. Words that would make Steve Jobs proud.