No Paradigm Shift in Cobb County, Georgia

In Cobb County, Georgia’s second largest school district (just outside Atlanta), the district superintendent and school board have initiated the Power to Learn Project. Power to Learn will put an i-book in the hands of every student grades 6-12, as well as every K-12 teacher. The total cost of the project will be $100 million. The first phase is underway; each teacher has received a computer, and each student in four high schools will get computers this fall for a year of experimentation. However, the project is in serious jeapody. On Friday, a citizen (represented by former Governor Roy Barnes) from Cobb County took the school district to court. At the hearing, it was recorded into testimony that the final evaluation scores of the competing computer companies (Dell, IBM, Apple) were altered. The alteration resulted in Apple getting the contract when, according to the testimony of Cobb official, they were rated lowest. Now the school district is considering having the Cobb district attorney summon a Grand Jury to look into these allegations.

Why is this happening? Firstly, putting computers in the hands of every student requires a paradigm shift in thinking regarding the nature of school curriculum and how students learn. There has been very little ground work in preparing citizens or educators for such a change. Paradigm shifts require new ways of thinking. Most change in education uses the integration model, in which a new idea is integrated into the present paradigm. A paradigm shift means the new idea supplants a previously held view, like moving from the Ptolemaic to the Copernican view of the universe.

My guess is that the Cobb officials in charge of the Power to Learn project had not realized the “power” and subsequent reaction of the citizen’s of Cobb, a very conservative power center. The local newspaper, The Marietta Daily Journal, has been the forum for the discussion surrounding the project, and most of the letters and opinion essays have been against the project. More will be discussed at this site on this project in the days to come.

The Case of iBooks in Cobb County Schools

This is the county in Georgia where I reside. I followed the story in the local newspaper on the Cobb County School District’s decision to provide Apple i-Books for all teachers, and students in grades 6 -12, beginning with an experiemental phase beginning next school year in four of the district’s high schools. It created an outrageous stir, especially with the editors of the Marietta Daily Journal. Not only did the paper print many negative letters to the editor (as expected), but the editorials were biased against the implementation of the program in the schools. Fortunately, the district’s superintendent held firm under intense criticism, and the first phase of the program, known as the “Power to Learn” will soon be underway. In my opinion, this is a couageous undertaking in light of our experiences with technology in schools. Putting iBooks in the hands of every student is a powerful idea, but will require a shift in the way teaching takes place, day-to-day. For example, the iBooks, with the district’s move to create a wireless environment, will enable teachers to link their students with students in other parts of the world in a variety of projects. One example of this is the work of I*EARN, which enables teachers and students to collaborate on a variety of projects in writing, language, science, geography, history and culture, to name a few. We’ll discuss other aspects computers in schools at this site. This gets us started.