Source: Sherman Publications

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Guest Column: Analog Schools in a Digital World

February 16, 2011

By Lake Orion Community Schools Superintendent Marion Ginopolis

Suffering with a nasty cold, I decided the best way to recover was to tuck in over the weekend, watch movies and eat popcorn. My DVD selection included the George Clooney Ocean's 11, 12 and 13 trilogy. (Ocean's 11, you may recall, is a remake of the original hit featuring Sinatra's rat pack.)

As I was into the third movie, there was a scene where Roman (Eddie Izzard) tells Danny and Rusty (George Clooney and Brad Pitt), "You guys are analog players in a digital world." This became the metaphor of the movie; old school vs. new school.

This theme really resonated with me as I think about the educational environment of our Lake Orion Schools. To put it simply, we have analog schools in a digital world.

And in our analog schools we are educating a generation of students often referred to as digital natives, the net generation or the millennials. Our students are connected – they're connected to their smart phones, the Internet, computers, IPads, cloud computing and they don't see technology as tools; they see it as an everyday part of their life.

Mark Prensky, an internationally acclaimed thought leader, speaker, writer, consultant, and game designer in the critical areas of education and learning, who coined the term digital natives, refers to our youth as…" the first generation in human history who regard behaviors like tweeting and texting, along with websites like Facebook, YouTube, Google and Wikipedia, not as astonishing innovations of the digital era, but as everyday parts of their social lives and their search for understanding."

Technology provides us with a world-wide reach and connectivity that opens up many possibilities. Digital resources help students work more collaboratively and successfully. With technology resources and wireless infrastructures, students have the flexibility to access information using learning tools and the Internet – they are connected to a new WWW~whatever, whenever and wherever.

In the 21st century, information literacy is critical for a student's success later in life. The tools of technology add richness to classrooms, allow for incorporating online research, multimedia, simulations, collaboration, and content creation that ultimately enhances creativity and critical thinking. Technology brings the outside world into the classroom, giving kids a bigger window to see and access what's out there.

There is a very real disconnect between what our digital students are experiencing inside and outside of our schools. For instance, a couple of weeks ago I went to the Sunoco station at Lapeer and Silver Bell. While filling my tank, I noticed a sign on the gas pump that said…Free wireless while you pump. Yes, in Lake Orion you can get wireless access at the gas station but not in our schools. Technology is an integral part of 21st century life and 21st century learning, and we can no longer expect our schools to function as if they are still little red schoolhouses.

As state funding for public education continues to shrink, support from the community is crucial for sustaining quality schools that all kids deserve. Whether or not you have kids in school right now, there is no greater return on an investment we can make than ensuring all children have access to quality educational opportunities. Strong schools help children grow into thoughtful neighbors, healthy consumers, responsible business owners and educated future leaders. When we support our schools, we strengthen the community overall.

So, as you go to the polls on Feb. 22 to vote on the Lake Orion Schools Bond, consider whether you want our schools to provide educational environments for children that reflect an analog past or a digital future.