Trading In Teachers for Technicians


Picture this. You’re in a classroom with 27 third graders using year old netbooks for the first time.

Running on these systems is Windows 7. While this is probably the best version of Windows Microsoft has ever produced, it’s still Windows running on cheap Dell hardware that’s a year old. The system has problems starting up and shutting down. If you close the lid, sometimes the netbook goes to sleep. Sometimes it crashes. If you fail to shut it down appropriately, Windows, in Bill Gates’ infinite wisdom, pops up the extremely unhelpful– at least to an eight year old– “Windows Error Recovery” screen.

Windows Error Message

This screen has four options:

Safe Mode

Safe Mode with Networking

Safe Mode with Command Prompt

Start Windows Normally

If you’re a bright 8 year old, which one will you choose? You could choose most any of them, couldn’t you? If only the mouse worked right.

My Computer Isn't Working

While the superintendent is right about kids being natives in computer usage, their native language is GUI not TXT. They’re used to pointing and clicking, not using the arrow keys to move a highlighted bar up and down.

But these are the screens the you’re faced with. You’re eight, what do you do?

As with all school children, perhaps you raise your hand to ask for help from your teacher. Maybe your teacher can help fix this and make this digital initiative something that is actually inspirational.

But your teacher is trying desperately to get 26 other kids to log onto the system, too.

“Desperately” you ask? Indeed. “Desperately” because she’s been told that the district is closely monitoring every detail, every bit, of information coming out of her classroom. They’re monitoring the number of people connected to the network. They’re monitoring how long they’re connected. They’re monitoring what the students are doing while they’re connected.

They’re watching.

And it’s completely clear that her job depends on the central office liking what they see. Suddenly, the superintendent’s dream of being able to make every classroom teacher do exactly the same thing at exactly the same time is within his grasp. Big Brother is watching and like a malevolent, digital Santa Claus, he knows if the computers are sleeping or awake. And a computer that isn’t booting properly suddenly takes the highest priority in the classroom.

It’s more important than math or reading. It’s more important than classroom management. It’s more important than education.

“Desperately” is an understatement at this point, isn’t it?


Her “ratings” will fall all because some child’s year-old, cheap hardware running software that’s known to crash didn’t start up right. Her job is on the line, by design of a poorly implemented “digital conversion” plan that even the Pearson people (well, outside of their sales department, anyway) don’t like.

And so the children sit confused, while the teacher, who was trained to excite young minds with the joys of learning, turns into a technician running from crisis to crisis just trying to get computers to boot.

This is the school system that Dr. Wardynski has created: a system where teaching is reduced to showing third graders how to get Windows to boot. I suppose I should have been happy with the system when it merely reduced teaching to test proctoring.

And for some insane reason some in Rocket City, which once could claim to be the most creative city in the nation, cheered.


If you’re not happy with the direction the system is heading, today’s your chance to begin to make a difference. If you are happy with the direction the system is heading, today’s your chance to help it along.

Please, take a few minutes today between 7am and 7pm to go vote.

If you live in District 1 or District 5, you have the opportunity to change the makeup of the School Board.

If you live anywhere in Huntsville, you have the opportunity to help schools for another thirty years by supporting the 6.5 mil ad valorem tax renewal.

Yes, despite my opposition to Dr. Wardynski’s “leadership” of our district, I support this renewal for one simple reason: Not renewing this funding source for our schools will destroy our school system once and for all.

I’m completely convinced that Dr. Wardynski would be happy either way. You see, The Broad Foundation specifically seeks out districts that are in financial distress for their minions to operate in. People who are desperate are easier to control. If the renewal passes, Dr. Wardynski will continue business as usual.

If the ballot question fails, however, he’ll get to fire a bunch of teachers and continue his plan to remake our district in the Broad image.

It will be a nightmare if the tax renewal fails.

Please, take a few minutes today, and go vote.

"Children see magic because they look for it." --Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff, Jesus' childhood pal.


  1. Are you spying in my classroom? What you wrote sounds like what is happening in my room only with i-Pads. I don’t have the time to trouble shoot them when I should be teaching. There are still not enough i-Pads and I can’t access the e-books so the students have to use the textbooks, plus I haven’t seen a Pearson consultant to help me. Don’t get me wrong I like the new technology, but it should have been phased in, not thrown at us. Thank you for spreading the word.

    1. Nope. I am not big brother . . . No actual HCS employee was spied on for this article. 🙂

      I am, however, a teacher who regularly uses technology in a classroom of adults. These types of problems happen regularly in my classrooms. Luckily no one is tracking our usage, and when the technology fails, I always have alternatives I can turn to.

      Our Superintendent has decreed that alternatives aren’t allowed.

      This is a nightmare situation that’s designed to run off good teachers.

  2. Big Brother is definitely watching. Dr. Wardynski has been to our elementary school twice since school started to check into all of the classrooms to see what technology is being used. It makes the teachers nervous and it makes the children nervous. And it hasn’t helped the computers work any better.

    So far I am finding these computers to be much less useful than they were touted. My third grader does have all of her books online now, but they are basically screen shots of each page loaded onto the computer. There is absolutely nothing interactive to them at all. There is also no way to jump from page to page. If you want to go from page 25 to page 40, you have to hit the page forward button 15 times. According to the website, the textbooks could have had a useable tool bar – if the school system had upgraded to their more expensive program. We are also having trouble accessing my older child’s textbooks at home. It was after 9 p.m. last night before we could pull up her homework.

    I have sent messages to the central office, but no one seems to have time to get back to me.

    1. “I have sent messages to the central office, but no one seems to have time to get back to me.”

      This is the central office we have instead of the central office we wish we had. What if the Superintendents name was Ann Roy Moore instead of Casey WARdynski?

        1. You can skip to the page you want in the textbooks. There is a page number square you can type in the page you want. Pearson should be used as a tool in the classroom to assist the teacher. The Edmodo is set up to appear to be like facebook where the teacher can Assign, read and grade individual assignments from her students, and her students can receive immediate feedback and make corrections. Pearson Math and Reading work in a similar format as well. However, this is too much too fast for elementary students to get a grasp on in the short amount of time teachers are given. One subject at a time should have been phased in. I love to see my students with computers in their hands, but I also love to see them reading a hard copy book. In my classroom I am trying to find a balance. A balance between teaching my students what “user” “save” “file” “save as” “download””word” “PDF” etc. mean. I incorporate flip charts for the interactive boards to work along side the digital program. Unfortunately I spend a lot of time working on students computers resetting browsers to the default, unblocking pop ups so the books will read, checking for compatibility between the software and the computer. I am interested in seeing how my students score on the first selection test, because right now, the computers are good, but causing a lot of distractions and talking.

          1. I have seen this square on my 5th grader’s laptop, but it is not on my 3rd grader’s netbook. We spent quite a bit of time working with it this weekend. The laptop is much easier to navigate than the netbook. The problem is that they have given the netbooks to 8 year olds who just aren’t getting it. My daughter says there are some children in her class who still cannot log into their computers their own. They are having trouble getting the password typed correctly. It doesn’t help that they changed all of their passwords yesterday for some reason. She says that by the time her teacher gets everyone logged in and on the right page, there isn’t much time to actually do the lesson.

            1. The first plan was for 3rd graders to get laptops as well. But as with most plans that are thrown together, this one changed many times.

              K-2 were supposed to be 1:1 with iPads as well.

  3. Interesting: 8/28 robo call from HCS. Said they are in process District Accediation. (from whom?) Said Parents, students and staff are an impt component of the process (really?). Doing survey of Staff, parents, student to find out your opinion of Hsv. City Schools. Surveys open till Sept. 14.

    District News Column bottom right of the page.

    1. I took this survey last night. I am sure that the HCS system would rather I did not since it included comments from a SPED mom. Needless to say, I was only stating the truth about the school my 1st grader is forced to attend.

  4. Big Brother is spying more than you realize. My wife is a teacher and one of the central office staff recently came to her room and informed her that she should be proud that she and her student were using the system more minutes per class than any other teacher of her subject. She said it was almost like they were flaunting the fact that they were watching. MEANWHILE…my son who is dyslexic was without his computer until today. This only after I told them that they would be seeing me on TV tomorrow if he did not come home with a working computer. He was three baseline tests behind and freaking out. He knew he was behind and he was embarassed since he was the only one in the class without a computer. My wife estimates base on her classrooms that 10-12% of her students are having issues that prevent them from completing their homework. One has even resorted to going to McDonalds to do their homework because they cannot get on their reduced price comcast account. If all of this isn’t enough, my duaghter’s math teacher doesn’t lecture. He just tells them to watch the videos and ask questions if they have them. If you had insight into how big the problem is (like if your spouse worked in the schools) you would be appauled. Teachers won’t take him on because they see that those who have have been publicly humiliated and informed they aren’t teachers but employees that can be fired. WE ARE ALL GOING TO HAVE TO GO TO THE MEDIA. BLOGS ARE A START BUT BUT NOT ENOUGH. IT TAKES A REVOLUTION.


      I totally agree. You would hope that enough complaints from staff, students, and parents would show the board and W that this was not a good idea. Or, maybe it will take the media.

    2. Teachers Spouse is right about middle school math. Grades 6-8 Math on-line text consists of brief (1 min or less–you won’t believe how short these are) videos hosted by various people or cartoonish characters. This is the on-line text book–no hard textbook exists. We watched some of them tonight. I don’t know how they expect children to learn math through brief videos. This is not Sesame Street.

  5. I believe that we have go to the T.V. stations—I don’t know if the Huntsvile Times is a viable option.

  6. Back to school night at a high school in another state: Students had been issued laptops on the 9th day of classes. Prior to that, teachers taught: all of my child’s have already posted homework, classwork, and quiz grades.

    And the teachers intend to go on teaching. Not a single one focused on laptops. They were mentioned in passing, Moodle as a place to do homework and for teachers to post notes that will be handy for students who are absent and for those who prefer to listen w/o taking notes the first time info is presented. But all are taking notes because the teachers LECTURE! A parent asked if they take notes by hand or on laptops. Teacher said it doesn’t matter. Textbooks are available for check-out as a resource, but since teachers LECTURE based on their knowledge of the subject matter, their approach often differs from text’s, either in chronology or emphasis.

    Laptops are a tool, like textbooks, like calculators, like paper and pencil. Laptops don’t teach. Teachers teach.

  7. Wouldn’t it have been a smarter move to have the laptops issued in the high schools only? This would give the younger students an incentive to make it to high school, and subsequently cause less burn out by the time they get to high school. Oh, btw, will the younger ones be able to read and write in cursive when they approach high school? I guess the operative word here is “smarter.”

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