Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Today I QUIT!

Less than six months ago, I packed a bag and headed to Houston, TX. New job, new school, new rollout. I was high on the “new car smell” ecstatic to join an obviously forward thinking school/organization. They had been awarded a Race to the Top District Grant and were using the funds to go 1:1 for 6th - 12th grade. Wow! What an opportunity! There was a device to decide upon, thousands of miles of travel, endless hours of PD, families who would finally have technology in their home. Suddenly, bam! The iron fist came down. The bright, exciting tomorrow suddenly turned cold and grey. So it IS true…. all that glitters isn’t gold. 

Below is my resignation letter.

Dear Colleagues, friends, and others,

As I walk out the door today, I feel you all are owed an explanation for my sudden departure.

Today, I quit my job. I turn my back on the 25,000 families and endless community members this school touches. I walk out, deserting thousands of new colleagues and friends. I simply can’t do it anymore.

I will not participate in the perversion of educational goals that were so promising. The awarded Race to the Top Grant recognized that “through creative and innovative uses of technology… students will publicly share their work… ensuring an authentic and meaningful context for deep student learning”. This is a complete and total impossibility when the devices are not permitted during regular class hours. One of the reasons listed for this restriction is that the devices don’t fit into the curriculum or the scope and sequence. That is counter-intuitive to an organization that claims in the grant to “emphasize 21st century skills that students will need”. Why would a curriculum be in place that could not use any number of tools available? If the curriculum is truly “inquiry-based and student-centered”, then how does the introduction of a tool negate that? Technology is another tool to be utilized in the classroom by professional teachers. Why restrict it?

I will not be associated with an organization that refuses to trust educators or believe in students. The grant plainly states that “Teachers wanted to use technology to scaffold support for each student… They wanted more technology in the classroom.” This was delivered in the 1:1 device initiative. Over the summer I had the incredible opportunity to meet many of the passionate teachers who come to work here everyday and I found teachers who were excited at the new medium of instruction and creation that was coming to their classrooms. Many work ten hours a day or more and go home and work some more. They give up summers, weekends, and sleep to ensure the success of their students. The message they receive in return is that they cannot be trusted with the internet or their own professional judgement. They’ve been told that they haven’t received “training” to be able to use the devices in their classrooms. Lessons and ideas they had created with apps and collaboration are now forbidden. The apps taken away; the collaboration pieces of the devices now blocked. According to the grant, “Students wanted access to technology in the classroom and beyond schools hours and wanted technology as an enabler to make the topics they are learning in the classroom relevant to them”. This too has been stripped from the students. They bring a device to every class they are not allowed to use. They take home a device that is so restricted with a proxy, they can’t even access basic news. Their excitement and joy? Now extinguished.

I will not work for an organization knowing that they believe control and restrictions trump learning and opportunity. As more and more teachers, students, and parents have contacted me about the restrictions on the devices I took a deep look at them. The proxy file in use blocks everything from the words “girl” and “doctor” to Facebook and YouTube. Students may not access Doctors Without Borders, Girl Start, or education Facebook pages or educational YouTube clips. It’s an Orwellian rule hiding behind CIPA. I encourage you all to read the article Dispelling Myths About Blocked Websites in Schools. CIPA doesn’t encourage or promote these restrictions.

I will not condone this.
Today I quit.