SFUSD is slowly but steadily working to bring more technology into the classrooms
Music classes use similar methods to improve bow movements on instruments. "Since iPads are not intended to be shared devices" Marten said, "there are definite limitations to using them in a shared environment. But they can still be useful nonetheless."
Dawson has clear goals for encouraging students to take advantage of technology. She believes that tech is just one of many tools in a teacher's arsenal, but that her ultimate goal for all schools under SFUSD's umbrella is to impart "skills that will help students be able to work in places that are right in our backyard."
Dawson cites big Bay Area employers such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Salesforce, telling us that she wants to see our students participate in the booming tech industry that is so close to home.
To help with that goal, SFUSD is moving away from standardized education and now fully focused on the integration of its Common Core model. The Common Core standards have already been adopted by 48 States, focused on teaching performance-based skill sets. This is project-based learning model challenges students to interact with real-life problem-solving.
It represents what Dawson called the "shift from the teacher-directed learning to student-centered learning."
In addition to teaching kids how to teach themselves, SFUSD is implementing the STEM Initiative, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. This education coalition homes in on teaching skill-sets related to "programming, infrastructure networking, game building, modeling, CAD (computer-aided design)," Dawson said.
If tech is important to the future of local students, then it is imperative to have tech-savvy teachers. One of Dawson's most immediate goals is to tune up teachers with tech, holding workshops that train them in the latest in scholastic programs, resources, and technologies. She has trained more than 300 teachers since arriving in December.
Yet funding for ambitious programs, workshops, and tech gadgets like the one's Dawson hopes to implement is a constant challenge.
Marten, a tech liaison of sorts, is enthusiastic about new tech options available to public schools, but he also notes the reality of California's budget for education.
"Ever since Prop. 13 passed, California's per-pupil spending has fallen well behind that of other states," says Marten.
The California Budget Project, a nonprofit research group, supports the observation with data showing that California has been in the bottom quarter of states in terms of per student spending in the last several years.
"As a member of Lowell's School Site Council, which helps decide the school's budget, I see that any technology initiative is competing with other worthy budget items to maintain course electives, keep class sizes down, stock science lab and art supplies," notes Marten via email.
A car wash or bake sale won't generate enough dough to buy every student an iPad or sustain a schoolwide Wi-Fi network — in fact, it doesn't even come close. Marten estimates that installing Wi-Fi at Lowell cost roughly $30,000.
"The cost of 35 iPads with warranty plus one iPad cart is roughly $20,000," he said.