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LETTER: Sometimes, it takes a crisis to drive technological innovation. 

| May 08, 2020, 04:33 PM

Scott Shaffer, Candidate for Board of Education–District 6

Sometimes, it takes a crisis to drive technological innovation.

We saw this during the Y2K scare.  Fears that our computers would stop working in the year 2000 led to a massive effort to rewrite software.  Along the way, other bugs were discovered, large sections of code were rewritten more efficiently, and we benefited from a huge surge in software performance and productivity as a result.

Liquified Creative Annapolis

With the shift to online learning, Anne Arundel County Public Schools is finding out how far behind the times their technology department has fallen.  Basic webinar and video conferencing capabilities, used by businesses and colleges for over a decade, were completely foreign to AACPS.  And while teachers and students have had access to the Google Meet platform for several years, the technology department has actively discouraged its use.  Now, forced into offering online instruction, the schools’ chief information officer has thankfully backpedaled on his antiquated stance.

The good news is that AACPS will come out of this pandemic with a stronger, more robust online learning platform.  Hopefully, they won’t stop using or innovating it once schools are reopened.  More should be done to ensure that teachers will continue to use it, that school buildings have adequate Wi-Fi, and that students have access to basic resources such as Chromebooks and internet service.

That’s not to say that improvements can’t be made in the meantime.  For one, the technology department strangely refuses to provide technical support directly to students.  Students must first contact their teacher with an issue, who will then pass it on to the IT department.  It’s extremely inefficient, particularly when readily-available solutions like Zendesk would allow for students to submit their own support requests.

Also, while AACPS is making Wi-Fi networks at school buildings open to public access, the hours are limited from 7 AM to 5 PM.  These should be expanded and made available 24 hours.

More common sense also needs to be placed on the online curriculum itself.  Administrators on Riva Road were quick to replace core academic subjects like science and math with a controversial Global Community Citizenship course.  Now, more than ever, is not the time to replace science and math with political correctness and social indoctrination.

How will we look back at these events a decade from now?  Teachers and students have adapted admirably to this new normal, but the Central Office administrators continue to create more roadblocks than they remove.  Online learning presents an opportunity for Anne Arundel County Public Schools to shine as a leader in innovation.  The only thing holding them back is their own leadership’s reluctance to do so.

Scott Shaffer, Annapolis

Scott Shaffer is a candidate for the Anne Arundel County Board of Education from District 6.

Severn Bank

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