The Value of School2Home: An Interview with Micah Studer

On Micah Studer’s LinkedIn page, there is a quote from Winston Churchill that epitomizes his approach to challenges in education:  "Success is not final.  Failure is not fatal.  It is the courage to continue that counts." 

Studer has worked as a California public school teacher since he graduated from Sacramento State University in 2006.  He has taught in the Vacaville, Fairfield-Suisun, Mare Island Technology Academy and Winters Unified School District—and he has pursued higher education degrees that have fed his joint interests in education and technology.  He is currently the Coordinator of Educational and Informational Technology of the Winters Unified School District, and is pursuing an Ed.D in Educational Leadership from University of California, Davis, with a focus Educational Technology.  Specifically, he is researching CETF’s School2Home program with the goal of examining methods for valuing educational technology tools in the classroom.

CETF interviewed Studer to learn more about his interests in education technology, why he supports the School2Home program and what he says to administrators when they question 1-to-1 computer device programs.

What attracted you about the approach of the School2Home program?

What attracted me is the idea that technology is a tool.  I think that’s a powerful concept because it really underscores the transformation that’s going on in education, which is:  technology is here; it’s here to stay; and it’s powerful for learning.

What makes technology powerful in education?

What if, 15 years ago, I said:  We can provide educational differentiation for every kid?  You would not have found a single educator who would not think that was a good idea.  But you also would have found a lot of educators who would say it couldn’t be done.  Then, technology came along and said:  Not only can we tell you where your kids are at academically, we can help through that process of skill differentiation—and by the way, here’s the data you need, right on demand, to make your decisions.  Technology is really just equipping practitioners to do their good work.  People are concerned that technology will replace educators, but all the literature confirms that the most powerful difference maker in a kids’ life is a teacher.  The fact is good teaching is good teaching with or without good technology.  But good teaching with technology is more powerful than good teaching without it. My analogy for that is:  a computer can no more replace an educator than a hammer can replace a carpenter.

How is the roll out of School2Home proceeding?

In just three years, we’ve gone from implementing School2Home for 1 to 7 grades.  We now have full implementation across middle and high school grade levels, involving 800 kids.  This has led us to increase its broadband and wireless access across the district to support a movement toward digital curriculum and resources.  When we brought the high school onboard with School2Home and Chromebooks this year, we had a solid model for process and implementation.  Now all the pieces are in place for individualized learning.  There has been a shift in teacher attitudes about technology, and teachers want more real-time data.  This is evidenced by teachers and staff moving along the SAMR model of technology proficiency.  Additionally, this summer the district moved to Google Apps for Education, and provided Chromebooks and trainings for that collaborative learning environment.  So the district is doing some very huge pivots to align itself to the goals of School2Home and we are seeing the positive effects already. 

What have the challenges been for School2Home implementation?

There are a lot of things we’ve had to learn.  There are things we wish we’d known in that first year, such as how best to protect Chromebook screens.  One of the biggest concerns when you roll out a program like this is sustainability.  A school district cannot afford the hundreds of thousands of dollars in Chromebooks and Chromebook repairs that can happen in one year.  Thinking through and building structures for sustainability has been crucial to our success.  Then, there’s the issue of responding to people who say:  Why do I need this?  Why should I be trained?  I don’t want my kid to have technology.  Those are questions we had to learn how to respond effectively to.

What would you say to administrators who are considering School2Home but are wavering?

 I would ask:  What’s the objection?  Educational journals are continually covering technology’s impact on education.  That’s where we’re heading.  And if that’s where we’re going as a society, then what’s the objection?  If the objection is that education technology presents complications you have to figure out—well yes, that’s true.  There is just no reason not to have this technology in the hands of kids, other than it’s too hard and you don’t want to do it.  If we believe it is the mandate of the school to educate all children regardless of who, what and where they are from, then we as educators and administrators need to provide the necessary resources for our students to succeed at high levels.  Yes, it is hard.  Yes, it is difficult. But the outcomes are amazing.

What is the focus of your doctoral work at UC Davis?

My dissertation looks at the School2Home model and how to calculate valuation for success.  One of the biggest fears we hear about is cost.  How do you put dollars and cents to a tool?  If I said, I’m going to put a whiteboard in every teacher’s classroom, then how would you measure the educational effectiveness?  You can’t really.  You can’t say:  we put in whiteboards and test scores went up.  That’s such a tenuous correlation.  So let’s say technology is the greatest thing, but it costs more than what the district can afford.  Is it worth it?  How does the district make these cost factor decisions?  What is the metric for cost-benefit analysis for educational programs?  Since we know that Chromebooks and educational technology are here to stay, then we need to create these models to guide our decision making around selecting resources amongst the plethora of available options. 

 

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