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Report: San Diego Classrooms Lack Technology To Prepare Students For Future

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February 25, 2015 1:21 p.m.

Report: Report: San Diego Classrooms Lacking Technology To Prepare Students For Future

GUESTS:

Scott Himelstein, director, University of San Diego's Mobile Technology Learning Center

Emil Ahangarzadeh, director of digital solutions, San Diego County Office of Education

Related Story: Report: San Diego Classrooms Lack Technology To Prepare Students For Future

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

This is KPBS midday edition I am Maureen Cavanaugh.

San Diego is one of the major high-tech hubs in the nation bringing together innovation and on turnovers is a growing part of our economy. You would think San Diego schools would be on the cutting edge of producing text savvy -- tech savvy students. A new study finds that is not the case. A technology need assessment conducted by researchers from the University of San Diego find most schools and students in the county lack adequate access to classroom technology. Which means people impact of the digital learning revolution is passing our kids by.

Joining me to discuss the findings of the study are Scott Himmelstein who is director of the University of San Diego mobile technology learning Center. Scott welcome to the program.

Thank you Maureen.

And [Indiscernible] is director of digital solutions of the San Diego County office of education.

Amil welcome to the show.

Scott, what we're trying to determine what the report?

As we all know technology is abating our lives, how we were, how we play, how we learn about things.

We got an idea and partnered with our friends at the County office of education, what this technology look like in our county, and our K-12 system. Nobody had done this before. It is complex, challenging, but in order to get where we want to go we have to find out where we are.

We surveyed all 42 of our districts and asked them questions like how many devices do you have, what kind of access to broadband do you have, what kind of professional training are you providing for your teachers? And a portly what are your greatest challenges in getting this work done what

When you say you did the survey, to teachers take part, did students take part, did administrators take part?

For the most part we surveyed the chief technology officers or other administrators who I've -- have access to the data. In addition we interviewed almost all of the superintendent's 38 of the 42 districts. I think we got a good look from their view.

What are some key findings?

Interestingly, again I have to preface this like a lot of school data it is kind of a year behind in -- in some district have done better. We found that only 9% of students in San Diego high schools, and 11% in middle schools in our county have access, full-time access to a device that is used for an educational purpose.

You are more likely to have a device if you're in the fourth through eighth grade. Even at that level it is only 21% of our students that have full-time access. The high school numbers it is count -- kind of counterintuitive we know all kids are using their smart phones nonstop, the question is do they have a device for an educational purpose and being used for educational purpose.

Let me break this down a little bit with you if I may. What you mean by full-time access?

There are very different models that different -- district take in their deployment of technology. About 5% of the districts in our county have a be why OD policy, bring your own device.

Most of the other districts are actually purchasing or leasing devices and then providing them to students on a full-time basis or during the school day. Does the student have access to the device? Access to broadband to be able to use this on a full-time basis for educational purposes?

What kinds of mobile devices are you talking about?

All kinds of different devices. We have districts using iPads, we have districts using chrome books, there is even a district using iPods, various different devices. I would like to say the thing we have learned most about researching this over the past three years is it is not really about the device, there are a lot of good devices out there, it is about the teacher. The teacher's ability to use that device to deliver digital content and engage students.

Even though so many high schoolers and middle schoolers and even elementary schoolers in San Diego to have access to smart phones in their own devices, and they are not primarily used for learning, right?

That is correct. We do not have districts really delivering content through smart phones at high school. I suppose there is an exemption -- exception or two but not in great numbers.

What is it about technology and having this full-time access to a mobile learning device that makes it such a critical part of education today?

That is an interesting question. I actually get this quite often from parents thing we do not have technology and we were raised why is it so important in today's educational landscape?

We want our students across the county and really across the nation to be able to compete, create, communicate, collaborate with not only folks in their own particular neighborhoods, but folks all across the planet. I think of technology as a pair shoes. You can run and still get the cardio you need without shoes. What do you prefer to do? You prefer to run with shoes on. It gives you the extra spring.

With technology for example instead of what I used to do when I was a child is right in essay on a piece of paper and get feedback from one teacher. Now I can create a blog or a video that demonstrates my understanding of it. Subject. That rounds of the critical thinking by an order of magnitude.

We want our students to be prepared for the 21st century and more and more we are finding that is becoming less and less possible without the aid of technology.

How can schools afford to purchase a mobile device for every student? That really is one that it has come down to.

Subdistricts as you said the students have no problem with that, they are bringing their own devices and their families have the wherewithal to be able to do that.

What we are talking about here is providing that same kind of level for that -- for each student in San Diego County. How can schools do that?

It is in underfunding. The funding itself is a challenge but there are so many aspects to it.

I think the short answer Maureen is they can't. Without partnerships with communities or partnerships with the University and the great work that the doctors doing with this UST in the mobile learning Center it is next to impossible.

Just a couple of days ago the superintendent for [Indiscernible] said we cannot afford to spend $1.3 billion for iPads for every child and administrator in school teacher.

But they can work with the publishers to lower the cost of some the content being developed out there. They can partner with the publishers so that instead of the school having to spend $350 on a set of textbooks, they can spend those dollars on a mobile computer.

That mobile computer can become packed with educational sources and content. I think without partnerships and without the aid of both the local, state, and federal government it is going to be very challenging if not impossible to be able to provide every child with a device.

That is a dream that we are not there yet.

And Ascot was telling us every child is not have full-time access, the amount of students who do not have full-time access, what is wrong with sharing? That apparently is going on to some extent, one gets the tablet to go home with that night and the next night another student gets the tablet to go home with. Is that adequate?

Not in my mentality. It is adequate, yes but it is not [Indiscernible]. I am sure you can appreciate if you ask a person with a rather share a car or on their own car I think they would suggest it is better to have the convenience to be able to access the content, access the Internet and be able to collaborate with their peers when it is appropriate.

Frankly I think most school districts in our county are approximately 4-7 student per device ratio. Which is not horrible, it is decent but it needs to be driven down to the point where students can access the wealth of information, the Internet and use it when they need it. Information should not stop at the end of the school day. Learning should happen all the time when the inspiration hits you.

For a student cannot have access to the Internet or content delivered by the school district when they are at home or on the bus ride home. It can really quell potential passions that the child might have for the learning process.

Scott, the survey did not only focus on the amount of mobile devices available to students but also problems schools are encountering using technology. Tell us what the school said about their infrastructure and the bandwidth needs.

We asked the district what are your greatest challenges in implementing technology in schools.

Almost 60% of them said aging infrastructure was the biggest problem. As many people know a lot of schools in our county are very old, 30, 40 years we simply do not have the pipes built in to carry sufficient broadband access. They view that as a great challenge.

Next day viewed access to bandwidth and actually the purchase of devices as a challenge.

Conversely, when we said if there were additional resources for this, what would you spend it upon first? Almost half of the districts responded that we would invest in professional development and teacher training for our teachers.

When you think about it we have teachers that have been in our system for five, 10, 15, 20, 25 years who have been teaching the same way. We are now asking them to be part of a digital transformation. That is very complex. Unless we invest in our teacher Corps and give them the tools and strategies that they need, our devices will not be as useful as they could be.

Emil , what kind of professional development are schools now providing for teachers who are in the predicament that Scott was talking about?

They are providing a lot of professional development. Unfortunately in my opinion and the opinion of some of my colleagues it is not the right professional development. The professional development tends to be focused on how to teach with these devices. The work we are doing at this annual County office of education along with school district partners is trying to shift the focus of the professional developers so we are focusing on how we use the technology so students can actually learn. How do the students actually use the technology themselves to the acquisition of content.

It goes beyond the type of professional development. There are a lot of folks out there who believe that because children are younger and have been raised with these devices that they all know how to use the systems very proficiently. But the truth is based on my anecdotal experience and a lot of my observation I noted in fact they don't. It is one thing to post something on Facebook and watch a video on YouTube, it is a holy other thing to be a digital response will person of the world.

We really need to teach the teaching court to be able to locate digital citizenship into the curriculum so they know how to use it correctly and efficiently as well.

Scott, we often hear of the digital divide in the need for a level playing field. How crucial would you say it is to create that level playing field in our school districts?

I think it is imperative. I think a number of us, superintendents and our counties, we all believe that technology can become or has the potential to become the great equalizer in access to education in our county. Any student from any walk of life, from any neighborhood should have the same access to resources.

As Emil put very well it is not just confined to the teacher. The student can be in charge of some of their own learning in the classroom, outside classroom, in the playground anywhere I want. It gives greater power to the student. I think it is imperative.

One of the school superintendents, school superintendent in Chula Vista is quoted in the press release for this report saying that technology is the longer a luxury it is a necessity for every student. Emil do you agree with that statement ?

100%. I think the federal government is starting to see that as well as they make their move toward advocating for the FCC to look at the access to the Internet as a utility.

Things have changed quite a bit in the last five years much less the last 15 or 20 years. For me it is a matter of civil rights, if you will, to give students access they need to these devices.

Really more importantly as a -- as the study shows not just devices but to provide infrastructure required for the students to be able to have access.

You have got a lot of priorities over in the County office of education. How high would you say all of this is? You have to make sure you retain your teachers, you have got to keep the test scores of, you have got to implement the new core curriculums going around. Where does upping the stakes for digital technology come in your priority list works

Honestly I will tell you thanks to the leadership of our superintendent Dr. Randy Ward this is in the top three priorities. Dr. Ward over the last five or six years has been a tremendous advocate for not only being able to provide broadband technology axis for the students at the school sites, he believes that we also need to go beyond that and provide access to the Internet and devices afterschool. Thanks to a lot of the work he has done and a lot of the folks in the County office of education we have partnered with multiple organizations including the University of San Diego to provide computers at 100, $102 to 1900 families to date. Not to mention significantly reduce activity on the Internet to $10 a month.

Dr. Ward has made multiple trips to the FCC and really talked about this.

I believe the county office perspective this is up there. This is one of the top strategic goals.

Scott, how would you like to see the report used?

I think we can use this as a springboard for dialogue. We all know we want to do a lot better. As I said earlier we have to know where we are first. That was the purpose of this was to get this information out to let everybody know where we are. Now is a great opportunity to convener education leaders, corporate leaders, philanthropic leaders and political leaders and look at this as a not one school district is doing better than another, this ought to be a regional effort to come up with a very thoughtful, strategic plan on how we do this as well as we can.

I want to let our listeners know you can link to the USD mobile technology learning Center report on our website that is at kpbs.org. I've been speaking with Scott Himmelstein from the University of San Diego and Emil director of digital solutions at the San Diego Department of education.

Thank you both very much.

Thank you.