In advance of Election Day on Nov. 3, Charlottesville Tomorrow will once again mail out in-depth nonpartisan voter guides, featuring exclusive one-on-one interviews with all 25 candidates for Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, Charlottesville City Council and both local school boards. In the days before the election, we will also feature their responses to several important questions about key quality of life issues so that you can compare candidates’ answers and make an informed choice.
Charlottesville Tomorrow’s 2015 Election Center website features links to the full written transcript and audio of candidate interviews, copies of our 2015 voter guide, information on where to vote, and more. All the following passages are excerpts from our interviews.
CHARLOTTESVILLE SCHOOL BOARD
SECOND IN A SERIES
Schools officials have said that graduating students who are literate with technology will benefit the entire community, but many students have said that their teachers often lack the expertise/training to use the technology, and that they don’t want their teachers replaced by computers. Please describe the role you think technology should play in the classroom.
Four at-large seats available
I can talk all day on this topic. My dissertation was on online education, on high-quality leadership for online learning in school. So it’s a topic about which I’m very passionate, but it really boils down to something very simple. Technology can’t replace high-quality teaching, but technology can enhance high-quality teaching. We live in a world that is changing in ways that we can’t imagine. If you just think about it, we now have phones like they had on Star Trek where we can video chat with other people, and how much that is going to change between now and when today’s kindergarteners are adults, we probably can’t even fathom. I don’t think comic books can fathom how much things are going to change.
As a result, we need to be creating a school system that prepares students for the inevitability of a technology-enhanced life. On top of that, we need to find teachers who can do that work. But at the end of the day our teachers have to be awesome teachers, and if they do that through technology, terrific, and if they can’t do that through technology, we need to have the resources to get them trained so that they can do that. We should never be looking to replace high-quality teachers with high-quality technology. We need to be integrated.
That’s a good question, and I guess I would say, gosh, what’s the point of the technology? What is the purpose of it? What are the goals? And I would say, first off, that technology should never replace a relationship with a teacher, and relationship-based learning. For about 98 percent of kids, there are a few kids who can’t do that. My nephew being one of them. He got kicked out of two high schools before he was accepted in a program that allowed him to go to school, but work on a computer the entire day, and that’s what worked for him. That would not work for most students and I hope we never get to that point. So obviously the goals should be to provide them with information they need in order to do well in school and skills that they need to navigate the world. And I can imagine a lot of their teachers are not as good as even they are at doing this, so partnering with other entities like UVa, like [the Charlottesville-Albemarle Technical Education Center], maybe even using more graduate students in the schools to work on some of these things. I think we just need to look for ways other than blaming the teachers for not being adequate enough in this area.
Amy Laufer * Incumbent
Well first I want to say that probably my nine-year-old can use my iPhone more effectively than I can, so I understand the concerns of these students, and I understand kind of the fear that some of these teachers have about computers, and it all comes down to professional development, and giving these teachers time with the tools so they can implement them effectively.
I don’t want to see teachers replaced by computers. I mean, computers, absolutely students need to have access to them and have knowledge and skills with them because every single job they’re going to have is going to involve some kind of online, etc. So I actually think our schools have done a phenomenal job implementing our 1:1. Maybe the technology was not the best, but we’ve replaced those this year with a laptop that is touchscreen. So I would tackle this with professional development. But we absolutely have to have computers and as much online for our students so they are prepared for the 21st century.
Jennifer McKeever * Incumbent
I believe that we have rolled out a very good device with our Chromebooks in the city school system. I’m excited about that and I think our director of technology has done a really good job of folding in teachers and division leaders to get buy in around this particular device, and the training needed to support the teachers and the children in the classroom, so I’m very excited about the integration of technology, and the appropriate level of integration of technology into our classrooms. And all of our teachers are constantly learning, and technology is not the end-all be-all. I certainly don’t want to see our teachers, especially before high school, being replaced by computers. That’s not the direction that I want to see our division go, because relationships are so important to getting children to the next level. It’s a tool, it’s a useful tool, but I cannot be the only tool for our students.