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Oakland’s “Santa Claus of computer land”

By Katy Murphy
Thursday, July 7th, 2011 at 5:48 pm in achievement gap, families, initiatives, students, technology.

Bruce BuckelewI thought you might enjoy today’s column by Dave Newhouse about Bruce Buckelew. The Piedmont resident and IBM retiree founded Oakland Technology Exchange West, a nonprofit based in West Oakland that distributes free, refurbished computers to schools and homes and training to children and their parents.

According to the OTX West website, the organization has distributed more than 20,000 computers since 1999 — and diverted more than 700 tons of electronic waste from landfills.

Buckelew thinks schools should use computers more than they do now to tailor instruction to each student, based on the child’s skill level.

“Not one size fits all,” he added. “There are schools that are going to 30 to 40 percent online individuated instruction, and 60 to 70 percent traditional interactive teacher-led, and they’re successful. We don’t have that model yet in Oakland.”

Do you agree? How does your school use computers in an innovative way?

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  • Maestra Online

    Bruce is 100% correct. Online learning can be as effective and engaging as traditional classroom instruction. The best of both worlds is often had with a “hybrid” or “blended learning” approach, where students in classroom can take advantage of the differentiated and individualized instruction Bruce refers to.

    Students NEED to be trained in how to effectively use Web 2.0 tools and resources to be prepared for college and the workplace. Teachers need to be trained in how to implement this. But I don’t see this happening much. There are a few courses in the summer in technology training, probably serving a tiny percentage of district teachers.

    I’m not talking about glorified worksheets or game-playing, but using tools from mind/concept-mapping to create dynamic outlines to e-Portfolios to keep a living archive of academic work, student reflection, teacher feedback and more, starting in kindergarten and continuing through college.

    I’m at a ao-called media focus school but our technology is out-of-date and our Internet connection unreliable and slow, even on a good day. Getting access to the computer lab is complicated and competitive; so it’s hard to plan on-going technology-based instruction.

    I am trained and considered an expert in the use of instructional technology but have not had many chances to train other staff and share what I know, which is why I’m considering leaving OUSD after 20 years. Don’t really want to go but the lack of opportunities to use my considerable depth and breadth of knowledge of instructional technology has made me feel that to keep my instruction fresh and relevant, I need to be in an academic environment where I can make use of web-based resources to create real-world and relevant instructional activities for students. It’s not that I cannot create good instruction without technology, but I could do so much more with it.

    So, I say “Right on!” to Bruce, and keep on talking this up.

  • http://charterschoolscandals.blogspot.com/ Sharon

    I think computers are fine, and I work on one everyday. The problem I’ve seen in my daughters’ OUSD schools is not a lack of computers, but a lack of available computer techs. I’ve seen computers set up and used for a while, but then malfunction and end up sitting idle because no one’s around to do the needed advanced troubleshooting. And then there are the newly delivered computers that never get properly set up, so they sit and accumulate dust.

    I’ve quite often thought that the scenario is a lot like a company that buys an enormous fleet of cars, but only employs a tiny number of mechanics to maintain them and keep them all running. It’s a chronic situation in OUSD as far as I can tell.

    Computers are a tool and a tool has to be consistently reliable before a person can make real use of it.

  • Steven Weinberg

    The Oakland Unified School District has benefited immensely over the years from Bruce’s dedication, skills, and commitment. He save the school I worked at tens of thousands of dollars, and helped scores of students obtain their own computers.
    Thanks to Dave Newhouse for writing this story and to Katy for sharing it with us.