Technology and Schools

by Dr. Joseph D. Hollowell, 2 yrs ago

Over the past several years we have had a number of conversations at Roncalli about how technology is changing the face of education.  One of the most memorable lines coming out of those conversations comes from our principal Chuck Weisenbach.  In his own inimitable style Chuck noted,  “Show me a teacher who can be replaced by a computer and I'll show you a bad teacher.”

With this statement I believe that Chuck has summed up our overall approach to technology at Roncalli.  I believe our track record shows that we have tried to be very judicious about staying away from the latest educational fad of the day, month, or year.  Many of these fads come and go bringing no real benefit to the learning of students.  By taking this approach we have no doubt saved our community millions of dollars.  But saving money is not the driving principle behind these decisions.

I have repeatedly said to people over the years, “Show me how the technology is going to support better student learning and higher student test scores and we will get the technology.”  We have a long and consistent track record of securing everything we need to improve facilities and the learning environment for our students.  But the reality is that the research on the ability of technology to enhance student learning is very limited when compared to the benefit of having a knowledgeable teacher working directly with students.  It is the teacher – not the tools – that make the difference. 

Our standardized test scores have been well-documented to be off the charts in terms of what other schools are doing locally and around the state.  I often think that many schools could benefit by coming to Roncalli and finding out how this amazing track record is attained. The reality is that most of the things that can improve schools are free.  Good discipline, high expectations for students, hiring teachers with a passion for young people - these are all things that are at the heart of a life-changing educational experience for students.   I am not sure what it is about human nature that insists on thinking that by spending more money on things we will be happier, smarter, or better prepared for life.  But that mindset is clearly out there in our culture and has been for centuries.

Having said all of this, I want you to know that we have embarked upon a technology planning and enhancement process that will give rise to substantial changes over the next few years. I want you to know that these changes are coming not because we want to have the latest that technology has to offer but because we think it will enhance the quality of experience that our students have.

Some of the changes that we are expecting to see implemented include the following:

increasing the number of staff members with technology responsibilities for teacher training and infrastructure support in accordance with the recommendations from two separate and independent technology audits

expanding our bandwidth and wireless capacity so that the entire facility can handle 1200 wireless devices simultaneously – one for each teacher and student

replacing every computer in our portable laptop labs and our stationary hard-wired labs   

expanding the capacity of our journalism lab

increasing the number and variety of courses that are offered online to Roncalli students

We have long been complimented by our visitors and the general public for the user-friendly nature of our website, our weekly newsletter, and the web-based registration process we have used over the past few years.  It is now our intent to see that the support of the teaching-learning process that takes place between our students and teachers is similarly enhanced in ways that bring true value.

I think the steps we are taking over the next few months are consistent with a Catholic vision for technological support of students in our schools and will prepare them well for the next phase of their education.  We want to be good stewards of the funds that are invested in our students.  We see these next steps as being faithful to that sort of good stewardship.

Point of View