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Two and a Half Years Later, New Rochelle School District Figures Out Giving Poor Children Free Laptops Means Little without Internet Access at Home

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Two and a Half Years Later, New Rochelle School District Figures Out Giving Poor Children Free Laptops Means Little without Internet Access at Home

October 13, 2011 - 22:51
17 comments

The New Rochelle school district will be providing free 24/7 WiFi in the homes of students, according to a recent school board resolution.

During the most recent board meeting IT Director Dr. Christine Coleman addressed Resolution 12-148 "Mobile on the Go (EDU) 2011 Pilot Program, a program to "narrow the digital divide in our urban school district and increase student achievement in reading and writing by providing off-premise, ubiquitous 24/7 wireless internet access through mobile devices."

The program costs $555,595 of which $439,335 will be covered by federal taxes and the remaining $116,260 will be covered through local taxes. Schools involved are Columbus, Jefferson, Trinity, Isaac and New Rochelle High School.

In April 2009, the New Rochelle Board of Education was touting a program to give 110 laptops to 5th graders at Jefferson School. At the time, Talk of the Sound raised many doubts about this program, among them the decision to buy into a brief fad for "mini" notebooks by which was meant under-powered machines which required internet-connectivity to operate for productivity software (word processors, spreadsheets, etc.).

The Journal News wrote:

The district appropriated about $39,000 from this year's budget to give 110 Dell Inspiron Mini laptops to the students. Minis and similar laptops are surging in popularity across the country for their cost and mobility. A 9-inch laptop can retail for about $300.

In the Spring of 2009, Talk of the Sound noted:

If the home does not have high-speed Internet access then the student will not be able to access Google (well, they can on dial-up but it will be so painfully slow as to be largely unusable). So, for students without broadband Internet access they are not going to be able to access Google docs, shared documents, collaborate with other students or send/receive email until they get back to school.

Coleman now says there are 140 laptops at Jefferson not 110 as stated originally. She also said that her department discovered that many children did not have wireless internet access at home and so to bridge the digital divide the district now needed to provide free WiFi at home for these children.

There are 17 Comments

Great use of our tax money Dr. Coleman!! Now our students can spend all their time texting each other nonsense, playing video games, and God knows what else, instead of doing real academic work, all on the taxpayers’ dime!!! Dr. “lets buy into every fad that comes down the road” obviously has not interacted with students for years, if ever, and is apparently out of touch with 21st century students. So the kids had these gadgets for three useless years??? Dr. Coleman “discovered” three years after the fact that underprivileged children don’t have high speed internet access at home???? Duuuhhh
Dr. Coleman doesn’t realize that without proper restrictions much time will be wasted with these things? How much do taxpayers pay this genius anyway? What the heck does she do all day anyway? If this is any indication, how much taxpayer money has this woman wasted that we don’t know about? Where did “Doctor” Coleman get her doctorate anyway, from the back of cereal box?????????

Wow I missed this story completely.

If the school district is handing out free computers and internet access is there any wonder our property taxes are so high?

I'd really like for the district to get rid of/fire/layoff 30-40 of these adminstrators that seem to do nothing but figure how to spend taxpayer dollars, but no whenever there are budget cuts, sports always come 1st and then teachers, never an administrator. And that's BS.

BTW, my kids don't have laptops and very limited access to any computer and they seem to have weathered the storm fine so far. You don't need a computer to learn the basics of math and a computer certainly won't teach you to read.

Wow I missed this story completely.

If the school district is handing out free computers and internet access is there any wonder our property taxes are so high?

I'd really like for the district to get rid of/fire/layoff 30-40 of these adminstrators that seem to do nothing but figure how to spend taxpayer dollars, but no whenever there are budget cuts, sports always come 1st and then teachers, never an administrator. And that's BS.

BTW, my kids don't have laptops and very limited access to any computer and they seem to have weathered the storm fine so far. You don't need a computer to learn the basics of math and a computer certainly won't teach you to read.

Teachers don't even have wireless laptops so why are they giving them to 5th graders? Wouldn't it be more prudent to give some wireless laptops to teachers with some training so they properly design multimedia based lessons to facilitate student learning? And what about the high school students who are entering college and the work place where they will be required to do more then text,tweet,and play games? Who is running this stupid show anyway? Is there even a technology deparment in the New Rochelle School District? The article states that Dr. Coleman says "..her technolgy department....." I have never even heard of a technology department in the District? Who is in this grand "technology deparment" that is guiding our kids into the 21st century and how much is it costing the district?

New computers for poor children. Doesn't that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide computers only to find out they can't use them as intended and now we have to spend even more because we didn't think it through.

Puhleeze

To be honest it's all a bunch of nonsense and wasted tax money. All driven by the agenda to pump up a rather lackluster technology department and increase the size of the burden placed on residents to support declining school performance.

As society moved from the abacus to the slide rule to calculators to computers the same has always been true. Garbage in - garbage out. If you haven't spent the time to engage the student on a personal level, you'll never have much success after you've driven them into the matrix. If they don't have a basic grasp of the lesson, all a computer will do for them will be to make them wrong more efficiently. For a child, using a computer these days is so intuitive there is hardly a need to place much emphasis on spanning the digital divide, or whatever trendy name they like to call it these days. That may have been true 10 years ago, but today most phones are more powerful and easier to use than even the best computer of a decade ago. Teaching them to use a computer is really the simplest of tasks one could teach a child these days. Language skills, math, science, the arts, critical thinking skills are what make up an educated person, not typing skills or how to navigate a google search.

One of the first prerequisites of educating is to "engage" the young mind to spark their natural curiosity about learning. This happens through interpersonal contact, not by sitting behind the glow of an LCD screen with that all to often seen zombie-like glaze in their eyes. You've seen them, zoned out, oblivious to their surroundings as they lose themselves in their nintendo's or playstations.

Have any of you known a really outstanding teacher? What made them so special? Could it be that they "connected" with you? Through their personal connection, a spark was ignited and your mind takes off. You don't get that from a computer or Iphone app.

You'll see how parents whose lives are all about technology realize the real skilled thinking is learned in the abscence of computers and wi fi and Ipads. Take a look at this New York Times article about how one school realizes the difference between fundamental education and smoke and mirrors. These parents could well afford any modality for their children, yet they choose the "low tech" approach. Tuition may seem high, but contrast that to the cost per child in the New Rochelle school system and you might find it's not that much different.

Focus on the basic core values and save the glitz for later. It's a very simple premise, in fact, "so easy even a caveman can do it". Yet somehow, our Board of Ed prefers declining scores as long as they have crossed the digital divide, whatever that is.

Yes. It seems that Dr. Coleman has missed the mark completely. Another expensive (and wasteful) simplictic solution to the vexing problem of how to close the achevement gap. And with all of the New Rochelle schools rapildy approaching a time when they will be overwhelmingly Hispanic, real solutions are needed more then ever. Computers don't teach students but clearly Dr. Coleman thinks differently (assuming she thinks at all; actually she does, just VERY SLOWLY; like three years behind the curve) What is really needed is a true Technology Department with facilitators that can train and provide resources to both staff and students, not window dressers who look like they actually educate students when all they really do is generate a lot of useless junk that looks good. Where are the front line technology instructional leaders with knowledge of the most current thinking and research surronding the proper use of technology? Where are the administrators with the practical experiences and skills who even understand how to intergrate technology into the curriculum? Does NRSD even have a framework for using technology to promote student learning and professional growth? Are there any common core standards? And what about the teaching kids about security, legal, and ethical issues involving technolgy. Did Dr. Coleman make sure tese poor kids (no pun intended) were taught about the dangers of on line predators before her gallent effort to bridge the digital divide? GOD!!! Is all they know how to do is take our hard earned money and throw it a problem and then feel goood about themselves?

Robert Cox's picture

You can watch the video of the BoE Meeting and, I think, they are going to post her presentation online (If they do I will link it here).

There are definitely plans. You may not agree with them but there ARE plans.

My sense is that a lot of the decisions are driven by seeking grants and what money is available but Dr. Coleman's presentations are long on tactical information, what technologies she intends to employ, and short on explaining the overall strategy as to why and where she expects to end up.

Typically, a presentation like last night would have begun with a 5-10 years "vision" piece explaining where she wants to end up and then explaining how she intends to take us there. I do not hear that; mostly it was about being in compliance with SED goals.

That's the problem with going after grant money, you have to use it specifically for what was awarded regardless of the circumstances.

So for example if the Feds put in $400k & the district has to only fund $100k for these computer purchses, its still $100k that we shouldn't have spent & maybe we'd be better off without the grant writer at all. What's their salary & how much is brought in & for what? How much does the district have to match for all the grants? Can someone else submit the applications?

Many schools provide lap tops for students, but as the technology pro says above there is an integration, a strategy, a plan and surely this all means that teachers must have the appropriate equipment, training and controls.

I don't like the blanket distribution of technology for the reasons cited and think thi sounds like the technological version of new math or some othe pc thing. (I mean politically correct in this context)

bob you are correct; you need a strategic approach, assurances that it is directed at grade level core educational competency areas, and not simply a "dora explorer explores the internet."

But, we do need access for students and I have no problem conceptually with take homes provided that it doesn't acerbate the issues we already face in technology abuse and lack of core learning of fundamentals.

Years earlier when serving as a resource and advisor to post graduate students working towards a thesis or significant paper, I would not allow them to use software until I was sure they understood and could apply, for example, proper statistical techniques. I say this only as a support for what this excellent poster and Bob are saying. Perhaps the support and expense of providing students with take home procedures might sit better with people here if there was proper linkage to curricula, guided exploration and safeguards against abuse, and a strategic plan, which includes as Bob indicates, a vision statement. Otherwise, oacking control and monitoring, it becomes the technological equivalent of Heather has two Mothers, important but ungrounded and eminently rejectable on the basic of the lack of critical thinking on the part of the district.

And, yes, whoever you are, you are the sort of skill level lacking on the board. Maybe the day will come when both Cox and you can take seats on this board and bring discipline and cost containment to parents and educational upgrade and genuine growth and advantage to the students.

Do us all a favor & make sure you go out & vote next Tuesday & bring everyone that you can.

We all share your thoughts & sentiments, but the only way anything will ever change is at the ballot box & we need people like you to get out & vote!

Mr. Cox:

By "tactical information" I believe you mean short term busy work involving technology lacking in any goals or criteria to measure if such goals are reached? I am interested in seeing her presentation but based upon what you have written I can't expect to see any long term vision or planning, which supports my assertion that she is SHORT SIGHTED and BEHIND THE CURVE (see my posts below). I would be curious to know if her technology "department" undergoes any sort of Quality Review and, if so, who conducts it, and what are the results?

Hmm. So we'll spend $116,260 of the taxpayers' hard earned tax dollars to fund unrestricted, unlimited internet access for select NR students. There's a plan worth pursuing. Has anyone taught these children proper usage? Has anyone taught their PARENTS proper usage? Their parents with their smartphones & ipads? Are we kidding? And who's the brilliant administrator behind this--Coleman? What kind of plan does she have? Does she even have a plan? Why is she permitted to act without accountability?? Coleman needs to be accountable to the taxpayers to have staff that can actually work effectively during the school day. Instead, she runs rampant with our money, tossing it hither & fro without substantive result. Why aren't her teachers teaching the students how to access public computers--like at the libraries that my tax dollars fund. Why am I expected to pay for personal computer access for these children? What happens when those laptops break? Who pays to replace them? Let me assure you it isn't grant money doing that, it's my tax money again. And what happens in 6th grade? Do we pay for access again? Or do the students get cut off? And then what good has having those computers served? Can,& do the teachers, both in 5th AND 6th grades, integrate what the kids are doing at home with those computers? Who checks what they are doing? And does Coleman care?

This is yet another example of how we create an entitlement society. Take a look at Greece--it's coming soon to a street near you.

Dr. Coleman appears to be another one of those do nothing do gooders who thinks its more important to look good then to actually BE GOOD at her job. I sort of get the feeling she has nothing but dunces in her "department" that know even less then her so God forbid she does not feel threatened in any way. Let me try to spell it out for her so that even she can understand what Mr. Cox and I are trying say.

1). You should have a long term vision when intergrating technology into the district. This vision should evolve into phases of designing strategic instruction from the top down; i.e. From the Director of Technology through the "department," to school-wide planning and finally to student learning.

2). This vision should include where the District is now and where Ms. Coleman wants to take it in the future in terms of using techonolgy to boost achievement levels.

3). THis achievement goal should be expressed in terms of SMART (no pun intended) Specific, Measurable, Achieveable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

In order to help Ms. Coleman do her job correctly and get her a big fat bonus from the Board because her six figure salary does not seem like enough motivation to do something other then throw wasteful simplistic solutions at a problem and worry about minimally complying with State Education Standards, I will lay out how she can properly intergrate technology to raise achievement levels and grades for ALL students.

1). Develop a comprehensive Technology based curriculum and learning goals using key common core learning standards for all disciplines after identifying key areas of content.

2). Plan Technology based instruction that leads to authentic student engagement. In other words, how does the district design and invoke optimal conditions for technology based learning? (as opposed to sitting at home with a laptop and a high speed wireless internet connection, the latter coming three years after the fact!)

3). Differentiate technology based instructional strategies for ALL students. In other words, how does the district extend technology based learning opportunties to the various members of the school community, including ELL and special need students, etc. teachers, parents, and administrators?

4), Monitor and analyize progress which in turn should lead to more resposive standard based technology related curricular, teaching, and learning as evidenced by realted associated tasks and measurable goals.

5). Put your goals out there (short and long term) and tell the world if they have been met.

I wish I could write more but I have a job to do and I like to do it right!!! ;-)

I wholeheartedly agree with NR TAXPAYER. In times of bugetary constraints why is it that the most senior technology related teachers who are closest to and have the most direct positive effect on the greatest number of staff and students are the first to go? Why is it that those who are least experienced and least competent and serve far less less students and staff in much smaller schools are retained? Favortism? Nepotism? Age Discrimination? Incompetence? Ignorance? Other forms of discrimination? Politics? Kickbacks? Pay to play? Personal vendetta's? Whatever the reason, one thing is for certain.....these decesions are NOT being made in the best interests of the children. More to come when I have time to write!

In the interest of full disclosure to Dr. Coleman it does appear that the laptop experiment did at least cover the issues of safety as the technology supposedly runs on an encrypted mobile network, provided by Verizon, which will allow students to do work anywhere in a safe web environment. Additionally, school officials will have access to the equipment and the ability to completely deactivate any unit in the event that one is lost or stolen. Another aspect of the "Learning On-The-Go" project includes the creation of a learning "cloud" for students and teachers participating in the initiative. The nredlearn.org cloud is an interdisciplinary, project-based and research-driven online learning portal. So there does appear to be some teacher involvement. NONE THE LESS, Three years between distribution of the laptops and the ability to use them in inexcusable! What a waste of money!!! It should be deducted from her bloated pay!

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