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Ask Slashdot: Why Aren't Schools Connected?

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the because-blackboard-will-break-your-knees dept.

Cloud 568

rtobyr writes "We use the Internet — E-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and blogs to communicate with colleagues, friends, and family. When I was in Iraq with the Marine Corps, we used e-mail (secured with encryption and stuff, but e-mail nonetheless) to communicate the commanding officer's order that a combat mission should be carried out. My third grade daughter produces her own YouTube videos, and can create public servers for her games with virtual private network technology. Yet here I am trusting a third grade girl to deliver memos to me about her educational requirements in an age in which I can't remember the last time I used paper. Teachers could have distribution lists of the parents. The kids' homework is printed. Therefore, it must have started as a computer file (I hope they're not still using mimeograph machines). Teachers could e-mail a summary of what's going on, and attach the homework files along with other notices about field trips or conferences that parents should be aware of. Teachers could have an easy way to post all these files to the Internet on blogs. With RSS, parents could subscribe to receive everything that teachers put online. If teachers want to add to the blog their own personal comments about how the school year is going, then all the parents would see that also, and perhaps have the opportunity to comment on the blog. It seems to me that with the right processes, the cost and additional workload would be insignificant. For example, instead of developing a syllabus in MS Word, use Wordpress. Have schools simply not paid attention to the past decade of technology, or is there a reason that these things aren't in place?" It seems odd that primary schools in at least the U.S. don't use technology to communicate with students much. My younger sister went to a private school that made reasonable use of Blackboard, but that seems to be the exception.

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568 comments

Poor people exist (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554061)

"Have schools simply not paid attention to the past decade of technology, or is there a reason that these things aren't in place?"

Poor people exist. And attend school. And there's an odd notion that we shouldn't make things even more unfair for them than they already are.

Re:Poor people exist (3, Insightful)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554107)

A computer capable of e-mail, web, and dialup access can be had second hand for $15. I think we ought to be able to contract with local e-waste recycling companies and give these away.

Re:Poor people exist (5, Insightful)

rjstanford (69735) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554135)

And access would cost another $20/month in a world where (gasp!) many kids are going to school without breakfast and are relying on the school district to provide them with lunch, since their parents simply can't afford it.

Those people are, however, notoriously underrepresented on slashdot.

Re:Poor people exist (2, Insightful)

Rifter13 (773076) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554229)

I understand that. I see it at my daughter's school, unfortunately. What really sucks, though, is that my daughter's education is drug down because of that. Equality is all fine and dandy, until you realize that your own child doesn't get what she needs, because she excels... and I don't have the money to move her to private. :-(

Re:Poor people exist (5, Insightful)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554405)

Which obviously ignores the fact that people were capable of getting excellent educations for thousands of years without any of this electronic gadgetry.

Perhaps you could fill the gaps? Shocking, I know...

Re:Poor people exist (0)

Angostura (703910) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554469)

Sadly not. The poster apparently believes that the past tense of 'drag' is 'drug'. /shrug.

Re:Poor people exist (4, Funny)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554653)

No, his daughter is on drugs. Which poor people have, so everyone is allowed to have them!

Re:Poor people exist (5, Insightful)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554231)

And access would cost another $20/month in a world where (gasp!) many kids are going to school without breakfast and are relying on the school district to provide them with lunch, since their parents simply can't afford it.

That is amost certainly the nail in the coffin of the electronic notifications to parents system. Imagine the "social stigma" if a teacher sent email notices to most parents, but had to give Billy and Marcia printed notices because their families are too poor to have the Internet and can't get email? Or if Roger is a bright kid and he tells the teacher that his parent's email address is a gmail address he controls?

That, and if it is a notice that requires a signature of a parent (field trip authorization, etc.) it will have to be paper anyway.

Re:Poor people exist (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554509)

"signature of a parent (field trip authorization, etc.) it will have to be paper anyway."

No, there are many ways to electronically sign things.
The point of a sig. is not that they can trace the ink back to your pen but that the design is not easy to copy.

Re:Poor people exist (4, Insightful)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554643)

"signature of a parent (field trip authorization, etc.) it will have to be paper anyway."

No, there are many ways to electronically sign things.
The point of a sig. is not that they can trace the ink back to your pen but that the design is not easy to copy.

How do you positively validate the identity of a parent in a household where the student is the most computer literate (and perhaps the only English speaker), thus responds to all of the parent's email? Give the parent a secureID dongle and hope they don't share the PIN with their much more computer savvy child?

Re:Poor people exist (1, Insightful)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554463)

Yes but they are the minority.

Special treatment can be made for the few who cannot access the internet off of school grounds.

I am sure there are a few armless children who go to school as well. Should we ban all school work that requires writing or typing because of this minority?

Re:Poor people exist (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554597)

Yes but they are the minority.

Special treatment can be made for the few who cannot access the internet off of school grounds.

I am sure there are a few armless children who go to school as well. Should we ban all school work that requires writing or typing because of this minority?

If you have 2 systems, then you're doubling the workload of the teachers since now they have to manage notices using 2 systems. I don't know where you go to school, but in many public schools, there are more than just a "few" students who either can't afford home internet, or whose parents are not computer literate.

And just wait until the lawsuit comes claiming that the wealthy students are being given additional opportunities over the poor students - is it fair to relieve the wealthy student of the burden to take paperwork home to have it signed while requiring poor students to walk the paper home, get their parents to sign it, then make sure the teacher receives it?

Re:Poor people exist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554625)

Hey, here's an idea: Keep your penis in your pants!? Keep your legs crossed!

Re:Poor people exist (1)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554451)

And how much for the dial-up access each month? When the bank account is empty at the end of each month, net access becomes a luxury.

Re:Poor people exist (3, Insightful)

grumling (94709) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554581)

If said poor person lived in Comcast's footprint they can get 1.5Mbps for $10/month:

http://moneyland.time.com/2011/08/10/comcasts-internet-essentials-10-a-month-service-for-low-income-families/ [time.com]

There are some restrictions, like not having an active account for the past 90 days, so shut off the cable and wait a few months.

Re:Poor people exist (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554287)

That's a good reason to keep the paper assignments, but not a good reason to omit email in parallel. Car Analogy: This is like mandating school bus use because some families can't afford cars.

Re:Poor people exist (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554593)

Because it is simply impossible to get an education without email or other tech gadgets.

No wonder people in other countries are testing so much better than us. We've become so fucking lazy about our own responsibilities as regards the education of our children. Is the paper assignment too much of an inconvenience, or what?

Re:Poor people exist (1)

severoon (536737) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554309)

How does making information more available to some kids hurt other kids?

Re:Poor people exist (1, Interesting)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554327)

We could easily subsidize the purchase of, e.g. a Raspberry Pi if we eliminated some waste from the education system. For example, textbooks.

Let's take all the money that's spent on textbooks nation wide, and use that to commission a free (as in beer and speech) set of elementary school textbooks. You only have to do this once, because the three 'r's don't change. Once you've done that, you can reallocate your entire textbook budget for technology instead.

Re:Poor people exist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554529)

Commie!

Public libraries exist (0)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554385)

Public libraries exist, they have computers, and they allow poor people to connect to the Internet. In fact, I have corresponded with a homeless person in the past, who was using a library computer. Serving poor people is not an excuse for failing to upgrade your technology, and we could spend less money paying cops to arrest poor people and more improving our library system. If we had priorities that did not come out of some Soviet playbook, that is.

Re:Public libraries exist (4, Insightful)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554505)

The nearest library to the house where I grew up is 10 miles away in another city. You assume the poor folks in the neighbourhood are going to just have to walk that each way every night because because there are no buses or other public transport in the country, and if they can't afford net access, they can't afford the extra 100 miles of gas a week either.

"Serving poor people is not an excuse for failing to upgrade your technology".

Yes it is an excuse when you fail to actually think about what you are talking about, and put a huge extra burden on the poor because of your rather stupid assumptions.

Re:Poor people exist (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554437)

Poor people exist. And attend school.

And reproduce.

A tiny percentage of poor people just had "bad luck" or lack of opportunity.

The vast, vast majority are poor because of a reason. Here is (one example of) what that reason looks like: "let's see, I can barely afford to feed myself, I have not completed my education, I have not achieved a solid career for myself, I have no savings worth mentioning, and I am not in a stable committed relationship. Wow, I sure am in a great position to have children! I'll just pretend like babies magically happen and are not the product of adult decisions and have lots of risky, casual, unprotected sex with partners who have no intention of becoming parents, yeah, that's the best move I can make at this point in my life!" For fuck's sake, you can get birth control for free and, I hate to break this to you, you can also survive without sex.

And for some reason when they complain that life is not what they hoped it would be, you guys drag out the pity-party and think that only a terrible person would ever question the facts of the matter. You are not Mother Theresa, people like that are not victims, and feeling sorry for them does not make you noble and good. It makes you an enabler who legitimizes bad decision-making by adults who should know better.

You're such mindless sheep you don't even realize this pity-movement is not even your own idea. It's politically useful to the Democrats and other Leftists who just love social inequalities because it means more power for them. You drank their flavor-aide. Now you think it's your own idea just like every other follower. See the funny thing about feelings is they can be extremely deceptive. You have strong feelings about this and you think that makes it real. That's another thing mature adults don't fall for.

And there's an odd notion that we shouldn't make things even more unfair for them than they already are.

Yes, it's so terribly *unfair* to expect a person who thinks they can afford a child ($$expensive$$) to also afford a computer (cheap). You know what *fair* is? When adults who make good decisions reap what they sow, and adults who make bad decisions also reap what they sow. Anything else is by definition not fair.

One simple answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554065)

A plague of viruses would ensue.

Two Words: Lesson Plans (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554085)

Such a system opens the teacher up to a review of his/her lesson plans and allows one to track classroom progress, neither of which many, many teachers want. Also, many teachers are tenured, are not subject to a review of their lesson plans, and don't have them, don't teach from them or don't want the administration watching what they do.

It's all about teachers not wanting to be examined by parents and administration.

Re:Two Words: Lesson Plans (3, Insightful)

slimak (593319) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554265)

That is BS in general. There are certainly some teachers that this applies to but any parent can request an observation to see exactly what is being done in the classroom. If you to examine you can. A teachers job is to teach the kids, not show the parents what is being taught. If you want to know what they are doing, go and check it out or ask the teacher outright. I am not a teacher, but have always found the district my child attends to be open and helpful.

Speak for Yourself (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554087)

All the summary writer's technological possibilities are already reality in many school districts. I'm sorry yours is behind the times.

My son's special needs teacher (3, Informative)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554089)

communicates with us primarily by e-mail, but is still required by federal law to have some things on paper.

Re:My son's special needs teacher (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554249)

That is exactly so. Certain things have to be provided in one of three ways 1) on paper provided to the student 2) on an centralized school controlled website that restricts access by the student (Sungard's and other student info systems), or 3) an email address provided by the school. Out of the options, providing it on paper is often the cheapest option, at least in the short term.

easy (0)

Moheeheeko (1682914) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554093)

Most tenured teachers are luddites and strike down any measure to modernise.

Re:easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554395)

You don't know many teachers.

Re:easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554513)

Many teachers are in it for the 3 months off in the summer.

Re:easy (1)

desdinova 216 (2000908) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554609)

I don't think it's the teachers but the administrators who are technophobic

Reach for the Lowest (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554101)

They must bend over backwards to reach the lowest available method. They have to presume that not everyone is connected. They have to send out memos even to lax parents that won't read them anyway. They should at least do both.

All this can easily be defeated. (1)

cvtan (752695) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554113)

Students do not give their password to parents.

Re:All this can easily be defeated. (2)

causality (777677) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554499)

Students do not give their password to parents.

You know that makes no sense, correct? I'll break it down for you.

1. Parent gives e-mail address to school (just as they currently provide other information at the time of registration). 2. Teachers now have this on file. 3. Teacher e-mails parent. 4. Parent receives e-mail.

Do you see any point in that process where the student supplies a password? Neither do I.

Sure, maybe you can come up with some retarded way to do things that would give the student such an opportunity. That would be an argument against doing things a retarded way, not an argument against utilizing the Information Age.

Equal Access (4, Informative)

rjstanford (69735) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554115)

As long as some people didn't have (or didn't want to use) electronic access, the school would have to have processes in place to handle paper-based communication. The good news is that paper-based works for everyone; as long as they have to do it that way for some, they can do it for all "for free" as far as process cost goes (which is not insignificant).

The alternative might save money (might not), but would require teachers either having to figure out each parent's preference independently, or to do all of their work twice for each student (again, not an insignificant amount of time they're spending on overhead).

Re:Equal Access (5, Interesting)

mariox19 (632969) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554257)

This is a good part of the reason. Schools can't exclude some students, and so disseminating things electronically would make twice as much work for a teacher. But there is another thing going on, too. My girlfriend is a teacher. She used to teach middle school. She wasn't required to post homework assignments online, but there was at least a tiny bit of pressure to do so. She refused, and for what she thought were sound pedagogical reasons.

We live in an age of irresponsible children and helicopter parents. If an assignment is on the board and a middle schooler has to copy it down and keep track of his assignment book, he's learning something. He's forming a habit. That little boy or girl is learning to take responsibility for himself. Moreover, the parent will have to keep tabs on his or her kid, and ask about the homework assignments. In this way, the parent is contributing to the child's moral development. Now, I realize that this is considered a loaded term in our politically correct society, but responsibility is a matter of character, and building character is one of the things that goes on in school, and is certainly one of the things parents ought to encourage the development of. If a parent, instead, spends every evening looking up on the Web to see what the kid's homework assignment is, that parent is not being a parent but a valet.

In short, there's an argument to be made for not putting assignments and other things on the Web.

Re:Equal Access (2)

causality (777677) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554575)

We live in an age of irresponsible children and helicopter parents. If an assignment is on the board and a middle schooler has to copy it down and keep track of his assignment book, he's learning something. He's forming a habit. That little boy or girl is learning to take responsibility for himself. Moreover, the parent will have to keep tabs on his or her kid, and ask about the homework assignments. In this way, the parent is contributing to the child's moral development.

Expecting the school system to be more of a parent than the parents is part of why the public schools are so fucked up. You know what this well-meaning but idiotic intention produces? Zero tolerance policies. That way, when a young child points a french fry at another student and says "bang bang" (something that was once viewed as harmless imagination like cops-and-robbers) he gets expelled because of the zero-tolerance policy concerning guns. The only "moral" he learns is to never respect authority, because the only ones he knows are unreasonable to the core.

Public schooling is part business and part jobs project. Parenting is best done by people who love the child and care about his well-being. It does not work out so well when you want it to come from a bureaucratic machine that views them as fungible line-items on a budget.

If society is going to break because homework is available in an electronic format, we have far bigger problems than redundant handwriting is going to solve.

Re:Equal Access (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554585)

I grew up in Apartheid South Africa. In high school we had to write all of our homework assignments down in a book, and have a parent sign it once a week. This, along with our actual homework, was checked periodically by your home room teacher and if incomplete you got beaten...

I never wrote any of my homework down. I forced myself to memorize all of the assignments for the week, and only wrote them down when my parents needed to sign. I now have an excellent medium term memory, including the ability to remember exact numbers days later... Fear of violence is a wonderful motivator ;-)

Also going to cost a lot of money to do right (4, Interesting)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554407)

And nobody seems interested in spending a lot of money on schools. IT in primary schools is some of the most pathetic I've ever seen. They do a completely shit job of it and a large part is lack of funding. When there aren't enough people, isn't enough cash for good systems ans software, is it any wonder you can't attract people who are good at it and that they can't do their jobs well?

So first big money increase is that the schools have to overhaul their IT. They need a lot more of it and higher quality. If the system is going to be critical and required, it'd damn well better be implemented and supported properly. You can't say "Well just go find something online for free," when it is something critical to the success of the school.

Support for people using it, both teachers and students, would be massive too. I know every parent likes to think their kids are real clever with computers but here's a newsflash: They aren't. Regular kids know how to use them in the same way regular people know how to drive a car: They know the minimum necessary to make it work and lack any advanced problem solving skills. I can see that shit every time I play an online game and have to give people support in making Ventrilo or Teamspeak work. Here are people who like computers enough to play online games, and they still don't know enough to make a voice chat app work properly.

So this wouldn't be some magic thing that would just work. It would require a lot of infrastructure, support, and development and that costs money. Now in the end it very well could be worth it. Maybe it saves money in the long run, by replacing more expensive labour intensive things. Maybe it doesn't save money, but the increase in quality of education make it worth it. Either way the problem is you have to fund it first. Since people are not hot on providing extra funds to education, that is a non-starter.

Re:Equal Access (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554427)

But even if paper remains, that doesn't prohibit schools from also providing electronic access. My brother is a public school teacher, and he posts homework online for parents to check. There's a lot of electronic communication in his class, though I'm fuzzy on the details.

In my opinion, it should be a goal of our society to provide everyone with access to a web browser and email, at least. We're trying to do it for poor children in Africa, so why can't we also aim to do it for poor people in our own country? It doesn't even require a full computer, these days. A small tablet per family may be good enough.

How does that restrict putting it online? (1)

RyoShin (610051) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554439)

Any properly formatted document available on the web is also properly printable. Make the document for the web first, and print out things when needed. Depending on the percentage of parents connected, you can either print out copies first and hand them out to everyone, encouraging the more connected parents to recycle on said paper (opt-out style), or have students/parents request printed copies to be sent home (opt-in style).

Since they print the document up anyway, typing it up using something like Wordpress and then printing is fairly trivial. If they want to do something fancy in Word, type it up in word, print it out, and upload it; or, set each teacher up with a directory that will auto-list contents for download online so they can just save to that network location.

Re:Equal Access (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554447)

Since it's quite likely the teachers made up the syllabus, schedule, etc. in a word processor, exactly how difficult is it to open a browser window to a school's server and CTRL-C CTRL-V the text over to some kind of web-based content management system? Or is the concept of copy-pasta really too hard for people in charge of children's education? I find that hard to believe.

I think the real problem isn't duplicity in paper and electronic documents or the such (having electronic redundancy available to those who could access it would seem to be a good thing), but rather that the typical school administrative heirarchy tends to minimize the role of IT and IT infrastructure. They simply don't budget for it. Many schools don't even have dedicated admins or such, and it tends to be a job that goes to somebody who does "computer stuff" as a hobby or is something that gets tossed around like hot potato. (You there, new guy? Guess what!?) Now imagine that if that job suddenly had to do more than keeping email up and the occasional rudimentary web page.

If you want to know why schools aren't connected, look towards the school boards and administrative staff. Get them on board in providing such services and then the rest should fall into place.

Schools are Afraid (4, Informative)

RichMan (8097) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554121)

See the elementary school teacher who used a school issued PC and accidentally shower her grade school class porn. She lost her teachers license, the school had a lot of explaining to parents to do. The anti-virus on the PC was out of date and had become infected from some other site.

Given the nature of modern parents allowing connectivity out of school is always going to be scary for teachers and schools.

What they could do is provide lessons, plans, updates and communications from the school to parents. This still has some risk of the school web-server getting owned, but is a lot less than the risk of one of many-many machines doing something wrong.

Re:Schools are Afraid (4, Informative)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554161)

She very nearly got a few decades in jail for it, too - the school district decided to throw her to the mob as a scapegoat, rather than admit their own incompetent IT management.

Who Is Going to Support This? (1)

NetJunkie (56134) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554131)

It's a good thought, but you gloss over many things. First, not everyone has a good computer or Internet access. Second, can you imagine the support nightmare? I went through an online Masters program through a good school and it was almost impossible to get everyone online at the same time with working video conferencing. Tons of problems...tons of issues... Now add in to that people that just want their kid to go to middle school and you're setting yourself up for a lot of missed homework because the computer was infected..or Word kept crashing...or the Internet was down...etc.

The only way this works is to do it in parallel with traditional processes, which many schools now do. We're not at the point where we can cut over to all electronic communication just yet. I'd love to...but we aren't there yet. My son's preschool does a good bit online but many forms and other information still come home on a regular piece of paper.

Insider (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554143)

I work in IT in a large school district. 1. Capital costs. It's easy to keep paying administrators and teachers to keep pushing paper around. It's hard to pay for new computers, new network infrastructure, and new employees that know how to set it up and use it. 2. Security. You need to be careful with children's identifying and private information. This is easy to do wrong, and expensive (see 1: new employees) to do right. And it has to be done right. 3. Even when you can do it, you still need to provide the paper versions, because some parents won't/can't use the computer versions. So why pay to do it twice (see 1)?

One issue... is security. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554155)

I have a friend that teaches 4th graders in a Gifted and Talented program. I helped her set up a blog and the kids are supposed to discuss 1 "extra" topic a week that she posts. This has gone over GREAT in her class room.

Now, setting it up, wasn't so easy. We needed to get on a server, and have it secured. It was actually kind of a hassle. But, security for the kids was the #1 concern (as it should be). When you look at using electronic means, security becomes more of an issue. The real issues, I would expect have more to do with training, logistics (not everyone has computers/internet, especially at my daughter's school), school support. There are just a lot of holes out there.

I was surprised how many hoops my friend had to jump through. A lot of projects are rejected because of lack of security.

Patience (3, Informative)

parlancex (1322105) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554177)

I work in K-12 education as a systems analyst and at least in Alberta where I am situated the change is coming. It isn't as easy as flipping a switch though, there are a lot of barriers in the way of this kind of progress; privacy and security concerns, limited funding for information technology in school jurisdictions, limited funding for professional development for staff to take advantage of this kind of technology, the Old Guard, etc.

Believe me when I tell you for the most part we are with you, but it takes money that nobody wants to pony up, and time that nobody seems to have.

Many schools already do this (2)

rickzor (1838596) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554179)

In Boulder, Colorado, every school in the district (50+) uses the web portal 'Infinite Campus' to convey grades, as do many, many school districts in major areas. I was going through school during the age of rising web technology, and every school I have been in since middle school (schools all over the united states) has conveyed grades, class performance, etc through web portals and email.

I don't know where OP is getting their information from, but from my experience the school system has been rapidly introducing web technology to communicate with parents since 2006.

Re:Many schools already do this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554351)

Many schools in my local district (Seattle Public Schools) already have most of these capabilities. Prior to this year, each school (and usually, each PTA or individual parents) had to set up a web site with class pages for documents and teacher updates, and classes had to establish email lists for parents. Depending on the sophistication and time of the parents involved, different schools had different levels of functionality and quality (and of course, some schools didn't have parents who had the time or capabilities to do this stuff). When I was building a web site for my son's elementary school, I looked at the web sites for a lot of other schools, and they were all over the map.

Last year, Seattle Public Schools instituted a central platform that gives everyone the capability to post school and class information, and send email messages to parents. A good idea in that it gives everyone a way to do this basic stuff, but the platform they implemented sucks (in my opinion). Clunky, doesn't integrate very well, and (I believe) you can't send email messages on a per-class basis (only to "all parents"). I'm sure it cost a lot of money as well. Oh well.

Re:Many schools already do this (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554479)

I agree. Here in Lincoln, Nebraska, they have a system called Pinnacle that is part of the grading system, where you can set certain thresholds, such as frequency and levels to send out grade summaries and alerts. If my son bombs a test, chances are I will know about it before he does. And if he misses a class, I get an email. I have pointed out to him that this will severely damage his ability to have fun if he decides to skip school someday, was we will know about it right away, and then will proceed to track him down by his cell phone, and then ground him until he is in college... hopefully the bark will be scary enough that we will never have to test the bite :)
  This has been useful in the past for when his teacher missed one of his tests. My son is in a 7th grader btw.

Now as far as transmission of non grade date, like up coming assignments and events, the digital distribution is very uneven, and dependent on the tech aptitude of the teacher. Some teachers have blogs and give examples on their school web page, while others don't. I think a lot of it boils down to the dreaded "Are you good with computers?" ability, and how comfortable the teacher is with them.

The other thing that guides it, I am sad to say, that students often don't take advantage of these resources. We didn't know about them until a parent teacher conference. When we asked my son, he said that he knew about them, but never used the site. Even after getting on his case, I think is utilization of these resources is very low. I can see this level of student apathy, that it could discourage the teacher from embracing these options. You can't always require that the student use them, as they may only have computer access in school or from public libraries, and these resources may not be available to them outside of class. (Why can't they just go to the library? Because if they don't have transportation, it is unreasonable to require a child to walk 5 miles in inclement weather to do an assignment).

Parents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554181)

Speaking for myself and my students, most of the time the parents are to blame. Not everyone has a computer with Internet connection. And those who have, most of the time are too tired with working with a computer all day to get home and care about school

Be Thankful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554199)

Just be thankful they aren't using Blackboard.
I'd prefer a piece of paper than having to navigate that monstrosity.

Two main reasons I don't (5, Insightful)

Ginger_Chris (1068390) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554205)

A) You can't assume every child and parent has access to the internet or computers. I work in a fairly normal catchment area of the UK and I'd say there are around 10% of families that fit into this category.

B) Too many excuses. You set homework online or through dedicated software and the pupils come back with 1001 excuses - "broadband wasn't working", "I couldn't download it", "it was in the wrong format", "printer was out of paper", "I've got it on memory stick and it still needs printing" All easily check-able and solve-able individually but not if you have 30 students. Give a child a piece of paper with homework on it, and if they lose it it's their fault (they could have come and collected a new sheet before the lesson), and if its not done it's their fault. Much much simpler.

Kids are waaaaay more tech savvy than parents (3, Interesting)

sandytaru (1158959) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554209)

It's all fun and games until the child creates a website that explains the entire operation has been cancelled, changes to the password to mommy's account, and never is held accountable for grades again.

Then again, such a child probably would do better outside of traditional schools anyway.

"My younger sister went to a private school..." (1)

k6mfw (1182893) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554211)

There's your answer. Private schools can screen applicants and parents, if they don't like either then that child is not accepted. Private schools can choose to increase tuition costs to hire people that spend time managing PCs and IT systems (many public schools are struggling to keep the teachers on payroll). All this greatly reduces problems of viruses and (God forbid) pr0n accidently displayed. But then my opinion here will go unnoticed by those in the "high castles."

Not all households have access (1)

digitalhermit (113459) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554217)

My daughter has a couple laptops, a tablet, iPod... symptom of being a geek's daughter. Alas, many households don't even have a single computer. Many parents have never used a computer or even an easy and secure way to retrieve email.

Think PCI regulations are tough? There are regulations on who can see your child's report card. It may contain classroom information that could be used by a kidnapper. The parents may live in separate households (divorced, separated, etc.). Schools are not allowed to disclose if a student is enrolled at a school and putting that information on the Internet makes it open to snooping.

Yes, not insurmountable problems, but with zero dollars available to even give teachers raises, it's no wonder that it's not happening quickly.

Look at the community and not the school. (5, Informative)

flogger (524072) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554219)

Education has historically been slow to change. As an example, it was a technological breakthrough in schools to get VCRs in each classroom in the 90's. To communicate with students, the student needs to know how to check email/facebook/twitter/blogs/etc. However each one of these tools is blocked in the school I teach. Students are not allowed to email, no one is allowed to facebook, tweet, blog, etc. Why not? Because the media has shown that every teacher is a perv who uses facebook/twitter/blogs/emails to stalk students in order to molest them. While I know this isn't true, and the slashdot crowd knows this is not true, average Mom and Dad watching the latest Foxnews/CNN feed gets this idea that teachers use these communication tools for evil. Word got out that I collected students cell phone numbers. (I wrote a script to send an sms before tests, quizzes, due dates, etc.) As a result a district wide policy was put in place stating that teachers are not to text students under any circumstance.

Why this fear mongering? Lawyers. The district is afraid that a parent will sue and so the entire educational environment is stifled in the community.

I use Moodle extensively and have set up accounts for parents to view lectures,take quizzes and participate in discussions with the students. it is great. I email with the parents, I set up a blog which parent have the option to subscribe to vis RSS feeds. The parents are slowly getting into the habit of checking the child's grades online....This has been slow going though. I first started posting grades and assignments online ine the mid 90's... it is just now gaining steam... Just like it took the VCR to become commonplace, it will take 15-20 years to get current communication technology in the schools.

Look up common core standards... New "rules" of educations pushing "21st Century" digital learning standards...

Re:Look at the community and not the school. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554501)

The VCR was commonplace when I was in school during the early 80s. However, it wasn't educational at all.

Not sure where you live (1)

teknosapien (1012209) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554241)

Not sure where you live, but the school district that my children are enrolled in has been using this technology since we moved here in 2003
Grades, email progress reports, absences and the like are all conveyed via email/portal pages to parents and children of the school district, my kids even have a shared space where they can upload their home work to then grant permissions the the teacher they want to have access to it.

Maybe its time you got involved or move?

Re:Not sure where you live (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554525)

said the helicopter parent.

We are already connected...and it's not all good (3, Interesting)

tomboy17 (696672) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554247)

At least where I teach, we *are* connected. The school has a website that links to all courses, the grades are all in an online gradebook that families have access to, and on and on.

As with many systems, things aren't as well integrated as they could be. The ecosystem of ways to share is so rich that what we end up having is a cobbled together system where people use what's most comfortable to them -- some use online calendaring for assignments, others use a static web page, others a blog, others email distribution lists, others just use the online gradebook to post things, etc. It's tricky as the tech director to decide when to regulate and enforce a common solution for consistency and when to let the diversity flourish to allow for innovation. In our case, we've standardized on the online gradebook and some form of course website, but that's not to say the other forms don't flourish as well (sometimes well integrated into the required forms, others not).

There are, however, some real downsides.

The biggest downside is putting everything in electronic form gives parents a weird level of insight into our grading process. By allowing them to peek into everything we do, we no longer choose how and when to communicate with parents, and the result ends up being some weird expectations (parents who right in with anger and concern when there kids have a low average early in the semester when we've only graded 2 assignments, etc. etc.). I also find that by having moved everything online and made things much more public, we are ennabling a lot of parents to continue coddling their kids and lowering expectations for them. Certainly it seems like parents expect us to put everything online.

Note: I don't speak for all schools, but I can say that here in the Boston regional area, what I'm describing is not at all exceptional. I work at a charter, but the same kinds of expectations are there at the major public districts that surround our suburban town.

My kids schools are connected!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554253)

I have three kids in school (one in each EL, MS & HS) and the school system is online with almost everything. Grades are only posted online and we can checkup on home work assignments in almost real-time (one day delayed at most). My wife can and does email the teachers all the time (my wife is an ex teacher now doing in-home daycare). The only thing we see from them are permission slips that must have a signature. It's really a great system from a parents point of view. And yes I live in an affluent suburb (of Denver). From what I've heard from the teachers, they like it as well, less paperwork and they only enter grades once and it's all taken care of.

Cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554267)

This question fundamentally underestimates the incredible effort and expense required to develop, operate and maintain modern social networking and communication systems.

Funding (1)

jburgess (167907) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554269)

Unfortunately, many schools are having a hard time paying their teachers, let alone a competent IT staff. Such advancements are rarely possible without the proper technical support. Maybe if we could get the federal and state governments to actually fund schools, we could move them into the 21st century.

"Reply" is the problem (4, Insightful)

CorporalKlinger (871715) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554277)

I think the problem may simply be that teachers perceive they will lack the time to answer questions / comments they receive from parents via email if they open this pandora's box. I know a similar feeling is present in much of the health care industry and other "social service" sectors. The more available one is via "always on" technology, the more time one will have to spend on addressing communications conveyed via this additional medium. Businesses see it all the time - think how much time each day the stereotypical Dilbert-like employee must spend on emails compared with time spent addressing paper memos and phone calls alone (which still exist today) prior to the advent of email. Teachers fear their already strenuous schedule will become even busier. It takes a lot more time for a parent to pick up a phone or write a letter to contact the teacher... and I think that's how a lot of teachers like it.

Some schools do, but it depends.... (2)

Fallen Kell (165468) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554279)

You will see it much more in private schools than in public ones. The main reason is the base assumption of wealth of the family. You can't expect a family that can barely afford food and housing to have a computer and internet connection at home. Many people take these things for granted (especially people who read Slashdot), but the reality is that there are many school districts where 20% or more of the students qualify for free breakfast and lunch because those might be the only meals they have for the day.

In private schools, you will see systems like you mentioned in use. Case in point, my cousin's school uses one. His parents can see every homework assignment, every memo/note every night. They can see what class he is in at that moment, what readings they are doing in class that day, what grades he received on every quiz, test, and assignment as soon as they are marked. They know if he is in danger of not getting an "A" for the term while he still has a chance to fix things. It IS an advantage, and one he would have unfairly over other students at the school if their parents did not have computer and internet access. It is why most public schools will not implement it. That said, the reality being what it is, statistically, the parents/families who can not afford a computer and internet access are already hurting the child's performance by not having access to materials which could help teach their child things that he/she is struggling with, especially given the fact that statistically, those parents themselves are least capable of knowing the subject themselves well enough to help.

First assumption (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554291)

Your first assumption is that the school administration is competent.
From my experience, this is not a safe assumption.
 

Re:First assumption (0)

Eponymous Hero (2090636) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554623)

yeah this is my point. set aside the gripe that there are families that can't afford it (a valid reason by itself, but let's assume that problem is solved) -- the real reason they won't do this is because the teachers' incompetence will be that much more apparent. not just incompetence in technology to convey this information, but their incompetence in teaching anything at all. a lot of teachers are glad you will never know how they waste students' time every day.

Not luddites, not fear... logistics and training (2)

Lichetano (1143789) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554297)

Honestly, it's a simple question of logistics & education. As a student teacher that's constantly integrating technology in productive ways, it's hard for me to watch the rest of the teachers at the school I'm working at (and we're a fairly well off district) try to use technology. They ask me lots of basic questions about things that people really should be able to do by now. My ability to embed youtube videos (not just links to videos, the actual media itself) has drawn gasps. That's frightening.

The teachers, though, *want* to be able to do this stuff. The fact is that the people who know tech in the district are either too busy fixing mundane things and managing accounts (they're sysadmins, not trainers) or they're overbooked. For a building with 150+ staff, we have one tech trainer that's in once a week, offering classes like "intro to microsoft word."

At the university level in the education degree programs, the classes still haven't been updated in probably eight or ten years. They're still requiring as the big, scary final project: a powerpoint with at least three images in it. Or, a newsletter that you assembled in Word with at least three images in it. The educational technology training at that level is a joke. There are generic blackboard trainings, but honestly blackboard's so bloated and buggy that it's been deemed by many of the staff that I work with to be too unreliable. I solved that by getting some cheap hosting and putting up a Drupal site that I've configured to pretty much mirror blackboard's capabilities (and even on shared hosting, it's more reliable than BB). That is far beyond the reach - even the conception - of most of the teachers I work with, not because they are stupid or luddites, but because they simply don't know the options. Not only that, the school's so sold on these huge packages - $10k a year for a flaky BB subscription and $400 Dell computers (old, slow, etc.) that they can't conceive of moving to an alternative.

Also, we use Pinnacle to enable communication between students, teachers, and their parents. Any parent or student can check grades & comments online. The problem is that most of the parents simply hate it, and the school can't go invest in a massive new package and try to move their data over. It's slow, it's flaky like BB (I've had all of my students unenrolled on a fluke, and it stayed that way for two days), and honestly, the students and parents just don't check it often enough for it to be an agent of change in parent/student behavior.

In summation: the tech they have sucks (it was sold to them by persuasive "consultants" - read, salespeople), and because they don't have access to decent training or resources, they don't know that tech can be an amazing ally in education.

They ARE using them, just not for everything (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554303)

My kid's school (public, in an Atlanta suburb) uses email for lots of communications, teachers keep a blog (usually one for the whole grade, where they post resources and homework) and the state has a site for exam practice, digital library etc. The school also uses letters when they think it's appropriate (not everybody has a computer or checks their email every day; returning signed stuff by email is not that east :), and occasionally mass phone calls.

This tech already exists for some schools (1)

undeadbill (2490070) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554311)

Los Altos school district has a pilot program with Khan Academy to do exactly this. Instead of lecturing in class and sending homework, they actually have kids watch the instructional videos, and the teachers help the students learn in class depending on their graphed and measured feedback. I'd say that Khan Academy is probably the leader in the next generation of education technologies. It is a free service and the organization is a non-profit. It is worth checking out.

The flipside of this issue is inertia. Most teachers and parents aren't very tech savvy, and shrink from having anything to do with fundamental changes to routine. I'm having an uphill battle convincing key PTA members at our school to implement Google Apps for Non-profits, even though they have had several communication issues where having a service like that would have made a world of difference. The problem is that enough of them simply cannot see the value of the technology. I'm having to go *very* slowly and do my best to not alienate people because of their own prejudices surrounding "it's tech, so it's hard".

Mimeographs... (1)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554317)

I volunteer in my daughter's classroom, and I hate to be the one to break this to you, but mimeographs are alive and well in public education.

That said, I never understood why there isn't a website that parents can log in to to access homework materials at the very least. Maybe have all the homework on the website, identified with the section/chapter number, complete with parent material to help your student. You could roll parental communication into it as well, but just the homework alone would be pretty spiffy.

Ah, I see your problem (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554329)

You're using logic and reason, which is expressly forbidden in public schools.

Nope (1)

BitHive (578094) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554339)

Your 3-year-old daughter is not setting up VPNs.

The reason your school hasn't gone full-bore with technology is because technology doesn't really revolutionize education.

Plus, it makes no sense to spend time and money implementing RSS for parents unless all the parents will use it.

Paper forms are the lowest common denominator and will be around for a long time.

Here in Australia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554343)

Here in Australia it is not uncommon for schools to have portals that have everything including homework and communications to parents.

Connected Schools (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554357)

Blackboard now offers their latest software to individual teachers completely free of any cost, with free tech support. There is now no excuse for not using it. Go to www.coursesites.com, read the terms of use, create an account, use it to create your first course, enroll students, and get on with it.

Schools and legitimate spending (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554363)

Some of that money being embezzled would need to be spent on something legitimate, which is something that will always be opposed by schools.

Coming from a former HS Teach, now a Prof (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554367)

I used to teach at a public high school. I asked about web-based systems for the school, and the answer was that the school board ran a web site, and that I was not allowed to touch it. (Reason 1: The administrators are afraid of what a teacher will post on the web, even though they trust us to do after-school tutoring with your 15 year old daughter.)

I set up my own system, and posted the critical things online. I never did get video lectures online, but I did get the syllabus / schedule, daily homework assignments, FAQ, etc. So, I was supposed to get my students to ask their parents to sign a form. I handed a copy to everyone in class, and someone asked if it was also online. I said it was. A third of the class threw their forms away. The next day I have every form (except 2) returned. That was the best in my department. The principle did what principles do...she looked for someone to blame because it was not perfect. She addressed the two students who had not returned their forms, and asked why they did not return their forms. They said I had said it was online, but that their printers were out of ink, or their computers had crashed. The principle marked me "below-expectations" on the "use of technology" part of my evaluation. (Reason 2: Principles look for someone to blame when unrealistically high expectations are not met, and the kids know to blame the teachers. Ultimately, anyone trying anything new gets blamed.)

Public schools pack more students into classrooms until there is a riot, then they pull out 1 or 2 students. They grade teachers first and foremost on classroom control. (The only possible secondary grading scale is what percentage of students meet a very minimal level of academic achievement.) When you are concerned about controlling a riot, paper is easier. If you were to hand out laptops, a few kids would smash them in the first 5 minutes, too try to start an argument. I know you think this is strange, and that the school would throw out the problem kids, but we cann't. The administrators' budgets get set based on student head count. That's why they employ armed truancy police and why they refuse to expel bad kids. (Reason 3: Public schools are not there to educate; they are there to incarcerate.)

If you want to change this, disband the public schools. Let people teach themselves on the Internet.

No one wants to pay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554369)

The high school i went to just got computerized grades last year. I work in the IT department of the same town ( separate from the schools, but we still communicate between each other ) They want to do stuff but no one wants to bone up the money to get anything good done.

Authenticated sender (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554377)

Att: Johns chemistry teacher. John will be missing chemistry classes next week because of a dentist appointment. Regards, -My dad

Because people over or under think things... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554389)

... then it gets to the point where the entire project is cancelled before any thought it even put in to it.

You have a paper system.
That can still be used on request.
You add an e-mail system.
No paper is needed, minimal maintenance by a local council network admin in the case things fall apart or crash.
DONE.

You do not need to do anything else.
All it needs is a smart e-mail tracking system. You do not need anything else.
You use open formats from text to 3D modelling data. Screw Microsoft, screw all proprietary file formats in fact. Open or get the hell out.
Or you kiss Microsofts butt for yet another education price cut and be another one of their bitches, your call.
But that is it. You don't need any other fancy crap.
If a persons connection is bad, or they have none, paper.
That. is. it. Don't think about it anymore. Just. Do It.
There is no equal access argument. Don't even bring it up. Everyone is getting access to the content. That is all that matters!

It was done when I was in secondary school. I came in 1 year after the project was initially started. For the next 6 years I was there, it improved massively.
But the scope of this was much larger, it was an entire education intranet, so it required much more management since there was hacking, abuse of services, breaking services, and of course just terrible security in general. (I found the damn network administration program when I was bored after finishing all my work. That is how terrible it was. I wasn't even trying!)
But they finally got their act together and locked things down after I pointed out some horrible backdoors to the entire damn network. (including council stuff!)
Meanwhile the skiddies got banned from any council network permanently. And like always, they grassed on each other. So much for that "hacker integrity". Oh, kids.
But they still had access to the content. And that is what mattered.

Silly wabbit (0)

robi2106 (464558) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554399)

Silly wabbit. Openness and transparency isn't for Kids (or school).

they don't want that kind of info (1)

Phusion (58405) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554401)

I'd imagine it has something to do with teachers not wanting to be that transparent. They're also already under enough pressure for very little pay... of course this very well may make their jobs easier. Maybe there's a "pilot program" somewhere, where teachers are doing this, or at least using SOME tech in the classroom.

Lazy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554403)

The teacher already has Too Damn Much (tm) to do, managing 40 kids. Ease of distribution is completely irrelevant. It's making and maintaining those emails and spreadsheets. That's head-down time, not interacting with the class.

Here's a idea: YOU do it. Talk to your kids. Every day from the first day of school, have a regular 'what's happening' casual conversation. Be part of the Loop by holding up you end of it, not expecting the teacher to be some sort of maid-servant submitting reports on your spawn for your leisurely review.

Two reasons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554409)

One reason is that everyone can receive paper, but some people can't afford computers with Internet access. Sending notes home with the kids is the one distribution method everyone can afford. The other reason is accountability. Schools generally require a paper trail proving what has been sent home. Letters go home, they get signed, they're returned. If notices are sent using e-mail you'd get parents who would just delete the messages, or some would get lost in the spam filter, or some parents wouldn't understand how to reply properly.

Basically the electronic thing will only work in areas where everyone has money, everyone is tech savvy and teachers don't need signed documents from parents to cover their asses. Can you think of any places like that?

Douglas County CO Schools (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554423)

Our county uses Infinite Campus which does just about everything you are asking for. https://campus.dcsdk12.org/icprod/portal/icprod.jsp?section=faq I'd expect most schools have at least a couple parents who could help get something like this setup.

Paper is the most-common denominator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554465)

I'm sure every teacher would 'love' to be able to send an email out to 30 students, and receive 30 "email-read receipts" -But that's not even close to a real-world case, now, is it? The average user doesn't check their mail hourly or even daily, nor do they read every message in the same routine (most) /. users do. What IS tried and true is sending a note home with the student and telling them, "You go to detention unless this comes back signed". This way, it makes 'someone' responsible for the message rather then saying, "Whoops... it went in my junk folder"... Paper is just the most common way to reach everyone.

mmm, well they do... (1)

godrik (1287354) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554491)

Not sure where your kids go to school. But my son in law goes to a public middle school in Ohio, and we are kept informed by email frequently of what is going on. Grades are posted on some webservice we can access. teachers send weekly or biweekly summary emails.
Important notices are delivered by paper (given to the kid) and also announced by email.

So I guess it depends on schools and community and how tech savvy the teacher is...

Slashdot readers are not typical! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554497)

Let me count the problems:

1. Some parents (and grandparents etc.) don't have internet access at home. These days, mostly this is the poor, especially those who are sofa-surfing, living in a homeless shelter etc. Those people will still need paper.

2. Yes, you could email me the homework, but my daughter will still need to complete it on paper. That means I have to have not run out of either printer ink or paper at home.

3. ...and you know that what gets emailed home is going to be a Microsoft Publisher file or something...

4. Schools may not even have the rights to do that. Many schools purchase eg. Math workbooks. These come from the publisher as one book per child, and the teacher or some helper/parent removes all the tear-out pages. Teachers then hand out as homework throughout the year. The school doesn't own the copyright and can't just copy the pages.

Many of them are (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554533)

My high school used a web interface to track grades and other information instead of the papertrail. My old elementary school has just started the same move to digital. Many schools have class mailing lists where teachers, students and parents can communicate. Of course, transition is slow, partly because schools are heavily infested with the paper-based bureaucracy, but it is already happening, at least here in Europe.

What's the advantage to the school? (1)

Xugumad (39311) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554539)

What's the advantage to the school? You're talking about introducing highly complex IT systems that will require development and support, both of which are expensive. What's the school going to get out of this?

I work on (development, training, support, strategy, the whole lot) these sort of systems for a university, and even for us the list of "nice to have" features that aren't going to be implemented is huge (100+ items last time I looked). A lot of schools are adopting open source solutions such as Moodle ( http://moodle.org/ [moodle.org] ), but we're still at the point that for many smaller institutions it just doesn't make sense on cost vs benefit.

Wow. I could write a book (4, Informative)

RetiredMidn (441788) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554543)

My wife is a first grade teacher in the school system I and my children attended. (I graduated high school in 1972, so technology had a whole new meaning back then.) I have volunteered for many technology-related projects, including a committee overseeing a complete overhaul/rebuild of the schools, so I have some first-hand experience with this.

There was a big national (sorry, U.S.) initiative in the 90's to get every classroom connected to the Internet. I participated in several "Net Days", or something like that, where we volunteers ran Cat5 through ceilings and musty basements and punched down net drops In every classroom of every school in our town.

After that initiative, finding net-capable computers to hook up was a problem (two of my wife's four classroom computers were formerly our home Macs); most school systems are stretching their budgets to put teachers (and mandated special Ed aides) in the classrooms and keep textbooks current; technology is a luxury few systems can afford.

Don't even get me started on staffing to maintain systems and networks. Most school systems get by with less than a tenth of what a comparable sized company would expect to have in place for IT support.

As someone pointed out earlier, there was a time not that long ago where you could not assume every home had a computer with decent access to the Internet, and you could not make it the primary means of communication without excluding too many people.

For a while, my wife paid out her (our) own pocket to maintain a web presence.

Things are improving; our town is using a system called X2 for web presence, report cards, communication, etc. But refer back to the support staffing issues. There is no real support; the system is maintained and updated by marginally technical personnel for whom this is a secondary responsibility (after, say, actually teaching), for a miserly stipend that works out to less than minimum wage if calculated by the hour.

I know some people who wish schools did a better job at this would be willing to spend the extra tax dollars to support it, but you'd be amazed at how many want more for less.

I know, crazy right? (1)

buttfuckinpimpnugget (662332) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554547)

It's almost like it's on purpose or something. Nawww.

tech school (1)

spacetimeExecuter (2578721) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554559)

i don't claim to speak for the rest of the country, but my school is relatively technically able. even in a state that consistently ties for last place when it comes to education, there are some schools with a remarkable grasp of technology. the software isn't up to date, the computers are crap, and the IT department is barely ever here (when they are, they just browse reddit and such like the rest of us). still, i can't blame the school for it. it's jefferson parish's fault. if some aspects of your daughter's school seem outdated, that's because they are. many schools simply don't have the funding to update as regularly as you or i. my school provides (shitty) laptops to every student. granted, the computers still run vista and are over five years old, but you can't have everything. even more surprising? it's a public school. the grades and assignments are shown online, and there is regular digital correspondence between the parents and the teachers. as a result, i am being punished for having a D in a class with three grades entered. such is life.

$$$ MONEY!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554561)

Throw a few million dollars into a school district and move your family into it. Wash, rinse, repeat...

Already Happening (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554605)

There are certainly steps towards this type of interaction with the parents. My two older sisters are both teachers (in different states) and they already do this. Both work in the public schools, although one works in the magnet program which is a special program for students who excel in the arts, sciences, or other similar situations. Either way, it all boils down to those families who cannot afford the technology, however in my sisters' cases those parents just don't get the added luxury.

-SirDinky

In addition to the cost comments, (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554615)

teachers actually have lives. If they become even more connected parents would expect 24 x 7 responses to every email they send, and bitch mightily if *gasp* a teacher didn't respond immediately to an email sent at 11pm on a Saturday. Most parents are reasonable, but all it takes is one or two idiots who seem to think that the teachers are their and their kid's personal servants who must drop everything to serve whatever need they perceive as having.
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