The Graduate Manifesto of George Cassutto

Keeping Growth Alive

The shift from a school district where technology was not high on their priority list to one where technology is a high-level consideration was not what I expected. As an innovator in a non-technological system, I had near-free reign. I was allowed to establish a website for my school, build a local area network (LAN) within my classroom, and represent my district around the nation in the area of technology. By the year 2000, my new professional home was a Mecca for techno-savvy teachers. The skills I brought with me were commonplace, and the innovations that were unique to my own professional experience had been replicated by many working within my new school system.  Moreover, the brave new world of the Internet was not all smooth sailing for those who had ventured to experiment with it. Since I had my own website, I was called into the office of Personnel Services and instructed to remove any aspect of it that could result in a lawsuit. Apparently, my on-line journal could be used against me by litigious parents trolling the Internet for any reason to sue a school system employee for something he or she might post on the Internet.  In essence, I was being censored by way of prior restraint so that no action could be taken against my employer due to anything I may have posted on my website. While I was thankful I still had a job, the entire experience placed a chilling effect on any creativity that I had heretofore brought to the classroom.

There were other challenges and restrictions within which a teacher must operate in this heightened level of technological awareness. Each school in the system is outfitted with a "Technology Resource Teacher," or TRT, who is supposed to help teachers integrate technology into their lessons. In reality, though, the TRT is the troubleshooter for the building as well as the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) police for the school. If you come to the school with a strong knowledge of technology and how it may be used to enhance instruction, you might easily be perceived, not as an ally to the TRT, but as a threat. I have experienced both ends of the spectrum in this area. Fitting in to my new workplace in the area of computers and using them to teach students would require a high level of diplomacy and creativity.

Using technology in my new school has not included student publishing as it did in my previous placement in Washington County, Maryland. Instead, I use the Internet to make lessons more interesting. I use websites to present new and visual information to my students. I use the Internet to download games, presentations, and interactive activities that my students can use within the computer lab or via an LCD. I use the Internet to do research, to sharpen my understanding of a given topic, or to stay current in teaching methods or in social studies content. I use the Internet to communicate with my colleagues, and I still publish my accomplishments, ideas, and questions to my own website so that I may interact with other teachers, and sometimes students, who ask me for my help or who are willing to lend assistance when I ask them for help. The most powerful technology-integration method I have come to know, that of student publishing, is out of my reach because of the fear of what might happen if my students to post their opinions and research projects on controversial political and social topics.

The most powerful technology-
integration method I have come to know, that of student publishing, is out of my reach because of the fear of what might happen if my students to post their opinions and research projects on controversial political and social topics.



Examples of Student Publishing By Students at North Hagerstown High School and Sterling Middle School

The Origins of the American Republic:  A Revolutionary Newspaper
The Interactive Atlas of Western Maryland
The Civil Rights Movement: A Black History Experience
Holocaust Journals and Other Stories
Early 19th Century America

In October of 2003, a notice was posted in the staff mailroom that read "want to build a Virtual High School?" I was familiar with the virtual high school concept because one of my first technology contacts in Maryland was Mary Ellen Verona, founder of the Virtual High School out of Montgomery Blair High School. The notice went on to say that participants in the program would learn new technology skills including advanced web page design, video editing, graphics development, and on-line course development. I saw this as an opportunity that was right for me if I was able to work out the schedule with the children's mom. The class schedule did not seem too demanding because much of the work would be done at home. One face-to-face class meeting per week for two years would be the commitment. After discussing with my ex-wife, I chose to attend the informational meeting. I learned that the school system would pay the bill for participation in the Virtual High School project up to the Master's level. After that, it would be up to the student to find the funding for the final phase to a Ph. D. in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in educational technology.

 A Course Correction