Sync or Swim Blog Series #1

Spotlighting the Best Marinnovations™ in Education
By Michael Leifer, CEO Guerilla PR / Ecodads
Continuation next month

Back in 2012, California State Superintendent of Instruction Tom Torlakson decreed, “Technology is changing nearly every aspect of our lives. But in California-home to Silicon Valley and the world’s leading technology companies-many schools have been all but left out of the technology revolution. If we’re serious about providing our students a world-class education, we need a plan that leaves no school and no child offline.”

It’s taken quite some time, and a lot of friction-filled evolution, for the public school system to integrate technology into the classroom, but the EduTech mandate has finally arrived in Marin and become a reality. Every school in the County either offers Wifi and/or has a computer lab or a cart of tablets. That’s quite remarkable when compared to the fact that only 1/3 of all public schools in California have Wifi.

But, let me put this into more of a visceral parent perspective…

Last year, in September, my wife (a High School English teacher in Marin), and I attended the Sir Francis Drake High School Back to School Night excited to meet our daughter’s new teachers, to sit with fellow parents in her classroom cohorts, and to find out what she was going to learn during the year.

However, to our surprise, the teachers spent over 50% of the evening discussing the new Learning Management System. All teachers and students were to now use this digital engine as their ONLY assignment center, homework delivery mechanism, the place for giving and getting grades, to receive feedback and where ALL projects would be posted.

So, rather than clarifying the new common core curriculum standards, arcs, themes, and experiential projects that the students would be undertaking, the educators explained the user interface windows, the features and functionalities, providing an overview of the various platform modules, and how this digital-locker interfaced with other tools like YouTube, Google Docs, Microsoft Office and much more.

This twist of expectations had caused many parental attendees to glaze over at the projection screen, while others reacted more overtly with fear-based platitudes over this apparent whirlwind shift from the days of pen, paper and the ability to say, “The labradoodle ate my homework.”

And, amongst this growing din, one parent at our table remarked discerningly, “Guess it’s time for them to either Sync or Swim their way to college.”

Over the past year it’s made me think: do students, parents, tutors and teachers have the best practices, training or tools to easily sync with this transition? Marin has quite an amazing talent pool of technologists, programmers and start-up businesses. And, with Dominican University graduating teachers right in our backyard, along with the Marin Educational Office of Technology, it seems there may be some phenomenal resources. But, how many are offering innovative ways to easily plug-in and sync with education? For students after school? For parents to aid? And, why aren’t people in my circles talking about them? Plus, what schools are using which resources and devices, and how are they working and being assessed?

These questions lead me down a discovery pathway to want to identify, conduct interviews with, and write articles about the most revolutionary Marin EduTech companies, non-profits, clubs, associations and participants, as well as the social impact and benefits that they are trying to create for Marin. I look forward to sharing with you what I learn from this exploration across future issues of this MEF Newsletter.


Michael Leifer
Cultural Anthropologist & CEO
guerilla PR, Inc.
mobile: 213.725.3037

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