Cowboy Logic 11-26-11 | TheFencePost.com

Cowboy Logic 11-26-11

Ryan M. Taylor
Towner, N.D.

There aren’t as many chalkboards around as there used to be. Teachers can wear black pants again without the danger of getting dusted by chalky hands, and the kid that wants to score points with the teacher can’t offer to clean the boards or pound the erasers anymore.

I’m pretty proud of our little school in Towner, N.D. It may only have a few hundred students scattered across 1,000 square miles in two school buildings but it keeps up pretty good with the times. Our second grader has just 10 kids in his classroom but their chalkboard is a Promethean ActivBoard, kind of like a big computer screen that you can navigate with the tap of a finger.

The school has been wired for years with fiber optic cable, and has wireless routers throughout the hallways to keep things flowing on their information superhighway. The hallways my son walks and classrooms he sits in are the same ones I did 34 years ago, but aside from the bricks and mortar there isn’t much that is still the same.

School came easy for me, and I realize now that was quite a blessing. All kids are different and have different ways of learning, and the more ways you have to reach all the different learning types the better.

We had a parent/student/teacher meeting at our school the other night. The topic was technology and the ways the school uses it.

I’m not usually a big fan of “robo calls” but when it comes to getting the word out that the school buses are running an hour late because of a blizzard or snowy roads, it’s nice to get the message before you roll the little sleepy head out of bed even if it is a robotic instant alert.

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Used to be we’d get out of bed and get ready just in case, then tune in to a scratchy AM radio station and listen for an announcement. If we couldn’t “see the willows,” some trees on the meadow just south of our house, Mom could usually predict with accuracy that school would be late or cancelled.

I used to bring home a small carbon copy piece of paper to show my parents the grades I got in the different subjects. Now I can log in and look up my student’s grades online, check individual test scores, and send the teacher an email if I think they’re grading the kid too high. Makes it a little tougher to try and fool your parents by losing the report card between school and home.

I heard a speaker talk recently about schools that do “reverse homework.” The students go home and listen to the classroom instruction on a YouTube video, then go to school the next day to do their homework in class, working on the problems together with their classmates. The trick seems to be working. He said the students are more motivated, they’re learning more, and the test scores are higher.

I’ve heard it said that the internet and technology magnifies both the good and the bad in a society. Education is one of the ‘goods’ and if we amplify the good with technology, maybe we can drown out the noise of some of the bad.

I think the technology is helpful, but I had to smile when my second grader and I were sitting in the school library listening to a demonstration on ebooks, Nooks and Kindles at our meeting. The digital book didn’t quite hold his interest so he walked over to the old wooden library shelf and pulled out an old fashioned paper book to read while we sat there.

I approved, and I think it was a good reminder that there’s still a place for the old amongst all the new.