This note is a community response to the cover article, “Classroom Divide,” published 3/16/11. The article alleged confusion about and even punitive approaches to the use of technology in Portola Valley School District classrooms. It was based largely on information from a single teacher and written by an Almanac intern. Let us offer a very different truth, starting over five years ago.
In January of 2006, the Almanac published a front page article about 21st Century Learning within the Portola Valley School District (PVSD). Senior staff and education beat writer, Marjorie Mader, reported on a 3-day long, community-wide learning lab led by world-leading paleontologist, Paul Sereno, and his team. The lab was provided to 100% of district students; it was hands-on, project-based, authentic, and multidisciplinary, with an emphasis on science. This archaeological exploration launched the 21st Century education transformation that is ongoing in our district ─ a collaborative effort of teachers, administration, staff, parents and students.
Since 2006, PVSD has incrementally designed, tested and adopted multidisciplinary approaches, project-based learning, collaborative projects, hands-on activities, differentiated and even personalized curriculum, authentic work and yes, technology integration, to support 21st Century Learning experiences for our children. Our example is becoming recognized locally and nationally. Recently, one of our signatories invited Jim Shelton, the Assistant Deputy Secretary, Office of Innovation and Improvement, Department of Education, to come visit us as he collects “stories” of 21st Century transformations.
Throughout these years, we have leveraged a plethora of local and national resources to guide our innovation and design, including sessions with IDEO and the Stanford Design school (d.school), meetings with Denise Clarke Pope (co-founder of Stanford's Challenge Success program), and others. We agree with Tom Friedman, David Brooks, Sir Ken Robinson, Harvard Professor Tony Wagner and the ever-growing chorus of researchers, educators, leaders, and indeed President Obama that a more relevant 21st Century education is imperative for the nation's future competitiveness.
Clearly, broad integration of technology within the classrooms is one fundamental component of 21st Century learning. The vast majority of Portola Valley parents, teachers, staff, administration and children embrace technical opportunities – why wouldn't we? Indeed, the thought that there could be too much technology within our digitally-savvy, Silicon Valley district is an odd one. The article was correct to cite 5th grade teacher Marcy Barton as a district leader in technology integration; more broadly, she created our very 21st-Century relevant, hugely successful Integrated Exploratory class, including a 1:1 student laptop program. But Marcy’s story is more comprehensive than technology use, and her success represents an evolving norm in our district, including every teacher at Ormondale, every 4/5 teacher at Corte Madera, and most of the teachers in the middle school at Corte Madera. The real story is not about a tiny cohort of disgruntled teachers, but about an entire district and community pulling together to embrace new ways of learning.
The _________(number) undersigned teachers, staff, administrators, and parents respectfully request that the Almanac return to its usual high standard of research and reporting, and do the following:
• Issue a retraction of the article for a failure to live up to the Almanac’s own standard of reporting;
• Restart your research, sample a broad array of parents, teachers, administrators and students, and write a different cover article on 21st Century education. We believe you will uncover the true story of Portola Valley's early adoption and ongoing leadership within the educational community.