It was parent-teacher interview day here in Prince Edward Island today: a holiday for students, an appointment for parents.
We’re blessed that Oliver, for the fourth year in a row, has a smart, flexible, creative teacher, along with a great team of support staff, and more often than not we leave the school impressed with just how much education has changed since we were kids.
Case in point: Oliver’s been using an AlphaSmart keyboard for a few years as it’s much easier for him to write at the keyboard than by hand, and his mind was being slowed down by the need to hand-write.
But the AlphaSmart, as innovative as it might have been in the early 1990s when it was first released, has more in common with a TRS-80 Model 100 than it does with the Mac on Oliver’s desk at home, and we were beginning to wonder if it was more hindrance than help.
So we brought this up at a meeting a few weeks ago and the school’s response was to locate a laptop for Oliver that he could use instead, and to suggest that we invest in a portable “thumb drive” to shuttle documents back and forth between home and school.
This has been in place for a week, and while there have been some growing pains – they couldn’t figure out where to plug the flash drive on day one – it’s working really well.
And remember The SketchUp Conundrum?
Well, it turns out that Oliver’s teacher uses Google SketchUp himself for woodworking, and he’s going to arrange to have it installed on the computers at the school and Oliver’s going to teach his classmates how to use it.
I’m the first to admit that I approach schools with a suspicious and cynical attitude, mostly based on my own experiences.
I forget, at my peril, that today’s teachers have had 40 years of evolution since those days (a 50 year old teacher when I was in Grade 4 would have been born in 1926; Oliver’s had teachers born in the 1980s).
They don’t always get it right, but it’s been our experience so far that demonstrating strong interest in Oliver’s education has earned us their respect, and they what we used to see as an intractable rule-based system is, more often than not, willing to be as innovative and experimental as situations call for.