Thursday, October 13, 2011

1:1 versus 1:100

Since my trip to Kentucky, I have been fretting over how far behind we've fallen over the last few years. I am thrilled that we have maintained our staffing. With the exception of the increased divisor which left us with five fewer faculty members this year, our schools are more intact than many. But there are still problems.

The area I am most concerned about is technology. The district technology coordinator came by my school two weeks ago to help set up a mobile IVC lab for a virtual field trip, and he told me the number of computers in this year's budget -- about five per school, for 27 schools -- with the caveat that he was asked not to buy those until later in the fiscal year, suggesting he really might not be able to order them at all. Meanwhile, in many of the schools of the Kentucky media specialists who I met over there, there are laptops for each child. How can our students catch up in a 1:1 world, given the 1:100 ratio in my library and little open lab time? I have been working around it by bringing computers from my home, but I don't have an unlimited number of those, and they can't go on the school networks, which limits their utility to offline multimedia production.

Our library's student machines are limping along. I've paid from my scant funds to max out the RAM, but the newest are more than six years old. When I contrast them with those in the labs, they are positively zippy. Though I'm down more than $45,000 over the three years of zeroed materials funding, I can scrounge books, between conferences and publisher's samples and my own pocket. But computers are a larger proposition, especially given the ridiculous bid list pricing. I am afraid it will be a bloodbath to jockey for position when we open a new high school, given the increasing contest for scarce available resources. New schools get three years of library materials funding...and new computers.

I said this summer that their hadn't been palpable anxiety about the state cutting librarian and media specialists from the schools, but doesn't it feel like that might be an inevitable long-term outcome when those resource-based professionals are not given sufficient funding to carry out their job properly, year after year? Doesn't that increase the likelihood they won't be able to satisfy the needs of our students and teachers?

The young faculty don't know how their teaching lives could be different, with money for technology and professional development and common purchases. A member of our English department asked if I would get the $140 in classroom supply money that the teachers were allotted. When I told her about my prior budgets, literally more than a hundred time that amount, she expressed sheer surprise. I hope she is a teacher long enough that she will experience the luxury of those funds returning.

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