Thursday, March 13, 2014

CMS survey shows enthusiasm for technology

Most parents who responded to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools online budget survey are willing to send their kids' digital devices to school and want to lease a computer for home and school use,  according to a presentation to the school board.

The survey,  which got about 12,100 responses,  is intended as a starting point for budget talks and a means of getting the public engaged.  Like most numbers,  the results pose as many questions as they answer.

One Laptop Per Child project

Eighty-three percent of responders said they want the county to invest more in school technology,  the most popular option for increasing revenue.  All the other options had to do with bringing in money from other sources,  such as ad revenue,  cell tower leases and rental fees,  so it's not clear why a  "more county spending" item was on that list.

Seventy percent of parents said their child has  "a mobile device,  such as an iPhone or an iPad,"  and 72 percent said they support letting their kids bring such devices for classroom use.  Two-thirds said they'd be willing to pay $30 to $50 a year to lease a computer from CMS for classroom and home use.

And 98 percent said they already have home Internet access.

So what does this all mean,  beyond the fact that people were clicking  "yes"  to a lot of technology questions?  Do people really want more spending for classroom technology and continuing use of  "bring your own technology"  and school laptops for kids to lease?  And they want all this even though they're already wired at home?

The first question,  of course,  is who took the online survey.  Two weeks ago board member Tom Tate pressed Chief Communication Officer Kathryn Block on how the district is reaching people who don't have Internet access.  There were some stifled chuckles when she replied that community partners were getting the word out  ...  through web sites and social media.

Board member Thelma Byers-Bailey brought up the issue again Tuesday.  "That's 98 percent of people who have Internet who say they have Internet,"  she said.

Block said some people used school and public library computers to respond to the survey,  but the high degree of Internet access in homes is  "consistent with what we see"  from other sources.

Project LIFT Zone Superintendent Denise Watts had left the meeting before that presentation.  I was curious to hear her take on that,  given that the public-private partnership is channeling significant private money into giving low-income families and students digital access.  Is it true that most already have it?

Watts says there's no way 98 percent of CMS families have Internet at home,  especially in impoverished neighborhoods.  "I would almost bet my next paycheck on that.  I would love to see the data source."  She agrees that many students have smartphones,  but  "that's not a work/education device."

Superintendent Heath Morrison told the board that in addition to the online survey,  members of the public have had a chance to speak in person at three town hall meetings on budget planning  (two more are coming up in April).  The board will hold a two-hour budget work session next week,  and Morrison will present his 2014-15 budget proposal April 8.

Here's the one prediction I feel confident making:  Technology will be a big item in that budget.


Wiley Coyote said...

This survey is fraught with contradictions.....and since over half of CMS students "qualify" for free lunches, do you really believe these families will pay a dime to "lease" a computer?

I think not.

Anonymous said...

"Seventy percent of parents said their child has "a mobile device, such as an iPhone or an iPad"

Well that's just a sad commentary on the state of our Millenials. Kids under the age of 12 should NOT be using, or have free and open access to these devices. Parents are just asking for trouble. And, by the way, these devices don't make your kids smarter. They dull the imagination and creativity and become a crutch. And God forbid the child can't live 10 minutes without his device. Big mistake.

Anonymous said...

Lies. I know NO parents who think this BYOT is a good idea.

Ask your kids what they do with it. THe answer will be games.

Anonymous said...

BYOT is a bad idea, most parents dont like it and some principals have told us that they dont like it either. Smart phones and the like in the hands of kids are serious problems waiting to happen. We all need to know what our children are reading, looking at and communicating with. The idea that children can be trusted with these types of devices is ridiculous.
Parents...try an experiment, take your phone, ipad ect away from your child for a weekend ( all technology) see how fast they say " I'm bored, then tell them to play outside, read a real book or play a what a concept!!!

Anonymous said...

I doubt their survey population is representative. We received a survey per email that CMS had for us. Sure in a divorced household it might be necessary to know that in one location there is access, while in the other there is not. Then there is the obvious how do you respond to an online survey when you don't have a computer.

BYOT has not been a hindrance at the middle or high school level. It is a tool, teach the students how to use it, when to use it, and most importantly when not to use it.

Leasing the computer is only one part of the problem, being connected is the other part.

Watts scoffs at a smart phone not being work/education device. Really? Ever heard of quizlet or google docs? A 4" screen is not ideal, but it is a fully functional device as long as it is connected.

Anonymous said...

Abstinence only approaches are failures. Embrace, don't fear the technology.

Anonymous said...

The social media like Facebook or Twitter etc in the modern pc age is nothing to brag about and plays a major role in the decline and destruction of todays America's poorly educated youth in todays society not to mention the elimination of personal privacy that was once valued.

Why is the bar being lowered on the SAT and other testing to accommodate or cover up the poor 3rd world students? America's education system used to be first in the civilized first world advanced but today struggles to stay out of last place.
Pathetic situation.

Get rid of cell phones and all social media and maybe the problem can be partially solved.
Get back to old school training for success.

Megan Oakley said...

I would hope that any new technology initiatives will be aimed at middle and high school students. Elementary students do NOT need more screen time, even in an educational context, according to the AAP. See this article for more information:

I am not anti-technology. Tablets and computers can certainly be useful tools in the classroom- in moderation. But they are no substitute for quality teachers.

Anonymous said...

Our students are really good at skimming (not reading), googling, cutting and pasting. This is not deep or creative thinking. The majority of tech use in our schools is not being used to build rockets and space ships or for computer programming.

The students text, instagram, play games, take photos and videos of each other. They are unable to pay attention to one thing for more than a few minutes.

Even after 10 years of students using computers/laptops/PTDs there is no evidence that it has had any impact on student achievement.

Anonymous said...

Is CMS aware of the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation of no more that 2 hours of screen time per day for all aged students?

Shamash said...

Yet another dumb, self-serving "survey" from CMS.

This is just as bad as those "parent" and "teacher" surveys where less than 5% from some schools answer, while more than 70% from other schools answer.

Of course, the results are biased and practically worthless.

These fools don't even know how to do a proper survey.

No wonder they are so screwed up.

And they were right to laugh at that "Chief Communication Officer" for such a foolish reply.

Good to see what those big bucks buy for central administrators at CMS...

Anonymous said...

Parents need to protect and guide their children in this day of technology/information overload.

One way to do that is create a digital/media strategy for your home. How much time do you want your kids to be spending on these devices? How much time do you spend on these devices? Who in your family should have access to these devices? Who in your family is going to manage the content and the time spent on these devices? Is it only being used for educational purposes?(or used to fill times of boredom?).

Shamash said...

Well, I guess this explains THAT:

"Kathryn Block, who came to CMS through a Broad Foundation fellowship for urban administrators, will become chief communication officer..."

Read more here:

Ettolrahc said...

Ok Watt: Give us the neighborhoods which you describe as impoverished and we will pick one from them and do a research project with you.

As a volunteer in these neighborhoods, impoverished means big screens, Computers with internet access and at least one vehicle.

Just tell me and I will be in touch with you.

Anonymous said...

Amazing. Textbooks outdated and falling apart ( they don't malfunction like digital devices). Technology IN classrooms often not working ( broken). Teachers still not being paid what we were promised years ago.... and you want to buy more toys that will be obsolete in a matter of months? Common sense in education management is gone!

Carol S. said...

BYOT helps the teachers manage their classrooms better. The students stay occupied on the technology devices.

Anonymous said...

I'll admit it, I'm attached to my phone in unhealthy ways. For all the wonderful things my phone does, what it’s never done is made me a better parent.

I don’t use my phone as a device to engage with my kids. We don’t watch the endless number of cat videos together, nor do we engage in other app-friendly moments of parental bliss. I use my phone for business and pleasure because it’s there and frankly it's pretty awesome.

But, I'll admit, it is a constant distraction for me as an adult parent. Just think of the "high" our children get from these devices? Children who lack self control, and whose brains are still forming and maturing.

Jeff Wise said...

It's a nice survey and like last year, it got the results it wanted thanks to leading questions.

But wasn't that the point? To educate the survey takers about various aspects of the budget and ideas CMS is thinking about? To that end, the survey does the job. And that should be the extent of it.

Regarding BYOT and tablet devices. The assumption, based on perceptions, that students are glued to these devices and spend too much time on them is short-sighted.

We were told that television was going to raise of generation of idiots. Didn't happen.

The various studies purporting that children of a certain age should have less than X hours of screen time is based on how children grew up decades ago. It's a brave new world.

Remember salt used to be really bad for you, now, not so much. And on and on.

Using technology to supplement education is not just the right thing to do, it's a necessary and critical thing to do.

Every student learns differently, teachers and schools should have the flexibility to use every possible tool to reach their students.

Of course that means actually investing in teacher development along with technology, something the state legislature seems to have little interest in doing.

Anonymous said...

I understand what CMS would like to do. I do believe our kids today will be part of extraordinary technically advances in their future, us parents can not even fathom or by the time we are in our 70's even understand (as our grandchildren laugh at us). It is imperative that children are taught advanced computer skills, including how to find information (as dictionaries and encyclopedias are a thing of the past). I wish for once though, before CMS goes further with this, that they honestly look at detailed reports on how other advanced countries school systems are dealing with technology. We always hear how wonderful these countries are doing but never do any CMS administrators quote what the Netherlands are doing or Singapore etc. These are the countries that our children are competing with now and especially in years to come in terms of skills and trade. The world is much more about macroeconomics and our children must be prepared for this (parents from the 50-70's were never prepared for this and it is showing now).

Shamash said...

The intelligentsia of the 1950's were predicting that too much TV would raise "morons", not idiots.

(See Radio: Morons & Happy Families,9171,858841,00.html)

While TV didn't raise an ENTIRE generation of morons, it certainly helped raise a SUBSET of morons.

The more entertainment (and distraction) we have at our fingertips the more people are tempted to entertain themselves rather than do something that takes more effort.

Like educate themselves.

That leaves less time for everything else.

Like getting a good nights sleep.

(And we all KNOW how much THAT destroys young minds... ).

And people ARE glued to these devices.

You see people walking around talking on their phones and watching videos everywhere you go.

I had a young woman bump into the back of my car yesterday morning (no serious damage) and she immediately hopped out of her car with her phone in her hand.

I, on the other hand, didn't just "happen" to have my phone nearby (or in my hand) since I was concentrating on watching traffic and driving.

I wonder if she was distracted and on the phone (and if that was why she hit me).

It was dark, and I wasn't watching her in my rearview mirror, so I'll never know.

But it wouldn't surprise me.

And that's a form of idiocy and distraction that's also dangerous.

Probably as dangerous as kids having car accidents due to a lack of sleep.

Jeff Wise said...


You could say the same thing 20 years ago (and today) with people putting makeup on while driving to work. You could say the same thing 10 years (and today) with people eating their breakfast while driving to work. Distracted driving is distracted driving whether it's a phone or a hamburger.

I was chastised for using a calculator in school and never fully learning how to use a slide rule. When my kid graduates high school in 10-11 years, he's going to marvel at those people who were afraid of technology and pushed to keep it out of the classrooms (I'm not suggesting Shamash you think that way, saying that in general).

At some point you you have to use the technology to understand and have the courage to admit when it doesn't work and adapt. The blunt opinion that BYOT, et al is crazy and needs to be stopped is not the right answer.

Ettolrahc said...

I support technology as it is the only way to train for jobs that have not been created, and those jobs that will be created by these kids learning it.

Check and see how many young people have created apps for phones and a lot of other things just because they had a small push.

And by the way I have mentioned the million dollar technology closets in the schools, something Ann should look into.

Ask the Teachers, most of them have contributed stuff that never worked in the classroom but for some reason home office felt was the best thing in the world.

Maybe vacations and the like to see new products and incentives to buy things should not be allowed at CMS.

Shamash said...

Well, when I see all the other things that parents get twisted over in the schools, BYOT seems like just another one of those issues that someone will find a problem with and a whole slew of "research" to support it.

Personally, I let my kids use tech toys at home and control it the best we can (and probably better than the schools will).

I did IT admin and programming work for a few decades, so don't fear this stuff. But I was never a computer gaming nut, either.

I knew some people who were, and there were some sad cases.

But I don't believe kids in the schools will use these devices primarily for education simply because they CAN do so much more.

They aren't like calculators where the most entertaining thing you could do was spell "HELL" upside down.

I don't buy ALL the concerns over tech toys rotting (or "reprogramming") a kid's brain, but I do think they can compete for precious time.

So too much tech toy time is probably not a good thing.

Having said that, I never went blind (or grew hair on my palms), went psychotic, became a heroin addict, etc., etc., from doing any of the NUMBER of things we were told was harmful when I was a kid.

Of course, today, you have all these sophisticated sounding studies showing all sorts of problems with all sorts of things and most parents don't know what's really true.

Even Google is supposedly rotting our minds.

Google "Google is Making Us Stupid" (or "Stoopid") and you'll see.

But I grew up during a rough and tumble era and think most people can be survivors with some effort.

I mean, when I was a kid, we could take BOTH a pocket knife AND a peanut butter sandwich to school.

Try that today.

Shamash said...


Don't you think the jobs that have not been created will probably use technology that hasn't been created?

That's what I think.

Because that's what I experienced in my career.

And technology is changing even faster than it was 30 years ago.

When I was in school, the Dictaphone (with Dictabelt Technology) was all the rage.

I could post the studies showing how it was going to "revolutionize" education (as I've done before)...

Those claims are laughable today.

A friend of mine in a "tech" school was studying how to use a Linotype machine (found only in museums now...)

I just stumbled upon computers while I was in college getting a math degree. People would ask me what I was going to do with COMPUTERS when I got out of school, and I said "I don't know".

It was THAT obscure.

The people who were in the schools (or most of the rest of society) had no CONCEPT of what TECHNOLOGY was going to be valuable a decade later.

And they/we STILL DON'T.

Given this, I still think a good basic education (reading, writing, math and science) trumps "modern" technology.

Because the today's technology won't mean squat in 2025.

Ettolrahc said...

Something to consider.

What baby steps we take today make all the difference in the world.

Wiley Coyote said...


Technology isn't the problem.

CMS is the problem. They can't run the basics of education so technology will be another bottomless bucket of money....

Jeff Wise said...

I agree technology isn't the problem, but there is a definite trend cropping up where people/society are starting to rant against too much technology and that people are too disconnected.

Thing is all this technology is hitting us so rapidly that it's very easy to get lost in it. Just like those families that moved the television to the dinner table in the 50's. This wave of innovation will even out and in 10-15 years, we will find a better balance.

That aside, I've seen and heard in my limited scope some CMS schools that are doing fantastic things with technology - and as long as individual schools can experiment and try things with technology, there's a lot potential.

Yes, there will need to be district-wide policies regarding various components of the technology, but if each school can have latitude and freedom with how they deploy and implement, there's no reason why it won't positively impact reading, writing, math, science, history and the arts classes.

Wiley Coyote said...


Each school should not have the freedom to use technology as they wish unless it's a specific magnet/technology school.

There should be a core approach to implement and merge general technology in the classroom to enhance learning.

Again, it comes down to what is the optimum use of technology that doesn't waste time or tax dollars.

The problem is, CMS can't optimize a calendar or a bell schedule, so imagine how screwed up implementing a systemwide technology program will be.

Like you, we were forbidden to use a calculator in my engineering classes in college back in the mid-70's, but when I go to my parent's house, I still talk on the same Bell telephone that's been hanging in the kitchen since 1960. It still gets the job done regardless of whether I have a cellphone on my hip.

In class, students still have to learn the alphabet and what 2+2 is and you don't need a computer or calculator to teach or learn it.