Monday, March 23, 2009

Destination Success

Destination Success is a computer based program that supplements the county's adoption of the Houghton-Mifflin Core Reading Program. Today 25 Kindergarten-First-Second Grade teachers from Chets Creek spent two and one half hours each learning how to select courses for students so they can use the program. The program is on-line so parents will also be able to use it at home if they have Internet access. Woo hoo! The on-line program can be used as a challenge for our highest-performing students, as a safety for our struggling students, and as an enhancement for those students meeting grade level expectations. Seems like such an outstanding addition to our reading offerings...

The rub is that even today with only 12 or so teachers trying to use the program at once, the program cut off, stalled and was so slow that teachers began to double up so they wouldn't have so many computers going. This is the same experience that our children will have! I certainly can't give the techie explanation for why this happens but the way I understand our bandwidth is that the high schools are given first priority, middle schools next, teachers next and finally elementary students, so the Internet runs the slowest for our youngest children. Of course, I understand that priorities have to be made, but how frustrating will it be for a little kindergartner who is already challenged by two different sign-ons, to face such delays? How frustrating will it be for the teacher to be constantly called to "fix" the computer, because our youngest student thinks when it stops or is "thinking" that it's "broken"? The county has already put over a million dollars into this program, which has good potential as an addition to what we are already able to offer, but how effective can it be if we have to depend on students to use it at home? Doesn't that punish some of the very students that we so much want to reach who do not have the access at home? The problem is money, of course. Bandwidth costs money and we all know the limits right now, but... on the other hand, how can we provide for our digital natives in a way that can make a difference in their learning outcomes if we don't have the needed bandwidth to make that difference? Who are we kidding to say that our children have an on-line computer based support that can't really be used in most elementary school buildings because the program is so slow that children are disengaged? When will we wake up and realize that a million dollar investment will not be realized without more foundational support?

It is this mind set that is so frustrating to children, to teachers, to parents, to stakeholders. But... sometimes I wonder if anybody is really listening? Does anybody really care? Surely there must be a solution - but who will be able to think outside of the box enough to find it?

Update:  The program that the county spent a million dollars on was never operationally functional.  It's potential was never realized!

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