I'm the parent of kids who attend public schools in Massachusetts (high school and middle school). As a result of that happy credential, I was invited to spend a day in a local high school to observe a range of classes and to talk with several teachers. First of all, I want to say that it was one of the best days of my career -- incredibly informative and inspiring -- and I am deeply thankful to the administrators, teachers and students who were responsible for creating that feeling. I also want to caveat the heck out of what follows because I know I'm using a sample size of one school in one town. Among the swarm of thoughts and ideas I had as I closed my observation day was the uneven application of technology across the spectrum of student-levels (remedial to AP) and subjects. I've noted this anecdotally via my kids' school experiences over the last ten+ years. They've never had a single, unified Web-based portal to receive and submit assignments, access textbook content, research projects, labs and essays, or communicate with teachers. Certainly there are a couple of portals used in a couple of classes but again there has never been a mandated method or commonality across their full educational technology experience (they've been in the same school system since first grade). This has always vaguely bugged me but the issue fell into stark relief when I saw this environment in person during a full day of classes.
The experiences ran from teacher's using "state of the 70s" overhead projectors and nothing else (as if the PC had yet to be invented) to others using educationally focused social media portals and mobile technology to communicate with their students -- both in class and outside. I can't really say the use of tech broke along the teachers' generational lines, nor can I say that the most advanced classes used the most advanced technology. I also have zero proof that the use of technology helps or hinders learning -- that's not my point. Again, it was the unevenness of the application of technology -- the lack of standardization within one school and school system -- that struck me most.
Over the course of my communications career, I've worked with companies whose specialties were technology or products designed to aid learning in the K-12 grades. Some of these were specifically built to match regional curricula or statewide standardized testing mandates, while others had more general education applications. Without making claims for one product or system over the other, I know there is strong and competitive market in educational technology. If a school plans on deploying some form of technology, I think it would be less confusing and more efficient for students to use a common platform or portal in every class and early in the K-12 spectrum.
Again, this is the result of only one day of observation in one school system, so who knows if my opinion here is borne out across the state or elsewhere. But, this was one of the singular impressions with which I left.
I'd be very interested in the thoughts and observations of others, especially parents with school-aged kids.