Friday, February 14, 2014

Jetsons or Flintstones

I recently read an article on the future of education by Gregg Behr, the executive director of The Grable Foundation, and I would like to share it with you.

First, some background on the foundation.

The Grable Foundation is dedicated to improving the lives of children. Here’s a quote from its website:
“We believe in possibilities: that every child will experience something new that will challenge his or her life; that a teacher will have the resources to nurture students; that kids will play and learn and grow on their own time, in their own way, guided by a community of people and places keen to make these possibilities a reality.”

Here at the School District of Janesville those are familiar concepts and practices. We have invested millions of dollars and countless hours in an effort to bring to our staff and students the latest in technology. Under the leadership of Dr. Robert Smiley, our district makes every effort to ensure that our staff has the resources to nurture students and our students have opportunities to learn and grow.

Gregg Behr makes his point by recalling a couple of popular cartoon programs of the 1960’s. The
Jetsons was a program about a family living in the year 2062. The program featured monorails, passenger vehicles flying around in space and a variety of robots performing everyday tasks providing the family with more spare time to enjoy recreational activities. It was a far out, futuristic program that, by today’s standards, seems possible, if not realistic.

The other program Behr mentions is The Flintstones. This program takes us back to the Stone Age where Fred and his wife Wilma battle through everyday challenges with stone wheels on the passenger vehicle and animals used to perform everyday tasks.

Behr wants us to make sure we, as educators, are Jetsons, not Flintstones. He provides examples of districts that have taken technology to a new level when it comes to providing students with opportunities to learn and grow.

One example is the Elizabeth Forward School District near Pittsburg. District leadership there has “reinvented” learning spaces. Its middle school was the first public school in the nation to install a SMALLLab embodying a learning environment where digital games are projected onto a classroom floor to engage students in subject matter ranging from fractions to prefixes. The district’s high school transformed its library into a multimedia lab with recording and production studios, coding stations and other digital equipment. The district is the first in the nation to introduce graduate-level courses from Carnegie Mellon University that teach game design courses to high school students. The courses combine STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) with the arts to teach interdisciplinary thinking.

Why is this important, and why should we even care here in Janesville? It's very simple.

We need only to look at results – verifiable outcomes. Elizabeth Forward has erased its dropout problem, raised math and reading proficiency levels and increased summer enrichments programs by 500 percent. In Gregg Behr’s words, “The school district has reignited its students’ passion to learn.”

Here at the School District of Janesville we are committed to serve our community by educating every child. We are also committed to adopt the Jetsons philosophy of continually looking forward to use the most advanced technologies that prepare our students for a very different world compared to the 1960s.

Hello Jetsons and goodbye Flintstones.

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