AISD Notebook

For at least one school board member, a snazzy presentation to the board of trustees on Monday from AISD's instructional technology development group evoked a strange longing to go back to high school. Several of AISD's veteran, technologically adept classroom teachers demonstrated to the board how they've applied technology to their instruction for years (often spending their own money do to so), which entails everything from compiling student portfolios in digitized video to downloading NASA images of Jupiter's moons off the Internet.

The sheer enthusiasm and obvious dedication of these teachers -- David Sanders, Janie Ruiz, Dan Gohl, and Scott Robuck -- was quite infectious. As Gohl explained to the board, the resources for the district's technology plan, which will be paid for with some $50 million in school bonds, don't come from an elite team somewhere off in the stratosphere, but from classrooms. Trustee Geoff Rips, a board member who tends to be reserved in his total endorsement of instructional technology, said he wished he could go back to high school. Nonetheless, he wondered aloud about the implications of the expense involved in deploying technology. "What are the tradeoffs, is just what I'm struggling with," he said.

At that point, the teachers switched into denial mode, refusing to admit to any tradeoffs, and instead explained how using technology gets students more involved and makes learning more meaningful. But if he were going to circumvent Rips' question, fifth grade teacher Sanders was extremely smart about it -- he explained to Rips (who is himself a writer and editor) that kids who don't have much heart for writing themes in longhand develop a keen interest in revising and improving their work when they're given technology to use.

High school physics teacher Robuck said that when he attempted to explore some concepts with his students in the traditional way (for example, figuring out movement on a two-dimensional time/distance chart), the kids tended to respond to him "like a dog watching juggling." But when he introduced technology to the lesson, he said, the concept became kinetic and real-time.

AISD Associate Superintendent for Instructional Support Services Darlene Westbrook hastened to add that technology is only a tool. It won't replace good teachers or strong curriculum, she emphasized, and it won't relieve overcrowded classrooms. But the teacher's impact or importance in the classroom will be enhanced, she said. Some 3000 teachers, under the tutelage of Sanders and company, are going to be trained in technology by August 1997.

Monday's presentation may not have made converts of all skeptics, and may not have quite demythologized the god of technology. But it offered a preview of what instructional technology will look like, and a glimpse of its possibilities.

In board action: The district's bond program barrels on with a vengeance. Trustees approved designs for additions at Harris, Sunset Valley, Langford, and Linder Elementaries and Bedichek Middle School, and selected Fields/Barnes/CasaBella Architects to design two new elementary schools. The board also approved spending $220,809 to use in-house personnel to install fire alarms at the following elementary schools: Allison, Becker, Oak Hill, Sanchez, Andrews, Joslin, Pleasant Hill, and Widen. The board will hold its next regular meeting January 13, 1997.

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