Sunday, March 25, 2007

Congressional Briefing - Project Tomorrow

Every year I encourage the students and staff at TJ Middle to participate in the Speak Up Day survey facilitated by Project Tomorrow. The survey data is used to present to Congress information about how technology is being used for instruction and where there are still needs to fill. This year I was invited to be part of the congressional briefing at the House Rayburn Building. I was asked to bring several students and parents along to give their input as well. As it turned out, we presented the same day as Al Gore when he testified to congress about his global warming theories. Needless to say, it was a media circus. How strange that the attention centered around one man's words about the fate of the planet when the discussion on the floor above them focused on the needs of those who will be the future stewards of the planet. Shouldn't more attention have been focused on how to get the future leaders of the planet the knowledge and skills they will need to solve the problems they will face? Anyway, that's a posting for another blog.

I rounded up three students and one mother of a student and headed down to the Metro station.

We were all excited about going into the heart of our nation's government. We live only 48 miles from Washington, DC but how often do we take time to bare witness to how decisions are made that shape our nation? I admit I was a little intimidated by the grandeur and history of the buildings we would be visiting. The briefing began with with several VIP speeches. The two most notable speakers were John Gage, Vice President of Sun Microsystems and Ray Simon, Deputy Secretary of Education.

Ray Simon's speech was about how quickly technology has changed and its impact on education. He described how science, engineering and math students carried around slide rules and how only a few people knew the secret of how to use the slide rule, the most valuable tool for an engineering students. He remarked how overnight, the tool that had been used for centuries as the standard mathematics tool was replaced by a cheap plastic chip, and he held up a TI-84 calculator. He ended his speech by wondering what will be the next invention that will replace the hand held calculator. It was something to ponder.

After comments from students, the parents and teachers were invited to join the panel. My contribution to the discussion centered around how technology can unite parents and schools in the education process. I also mentioned how there is a lack of technology support which is critical to using the tools that have shown to increase student attendance, achievement, and motivation while decreasing disruptive behavior.

After all was said and done I was very pleased to be part of a process to secure funding for the technology I believe is critical to student achievement and paramount for preparing them for the job market. It is my mission as a leader to help ensure that students are able to access the tools they need to be successful in life. I often wonder how I will be able to navigate the large bureaucracy that is often in place. Many people have different ideals and objectives. I will need to acquire skills of diplomacy and patience. The vision I have will not materialize overnight, but will require slow and steady progress.

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