By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Before the Great Depression, schools throughout America used to ban their students from using pencils, internationally respected education leader Bill Daggett told Northeast Mississippi educators on Wednesday.
The fear was that if students had such writing utensils when teachers didn’t want them to, those kids could write on the walls, pass notes, poke each other or cause other distractions. Instead, schools bought their own pencils and temporarily distributed them when students needed them.
That changed when they faced severe budget cuts and realized it was cheaper to allow those who owned pencils to bring their own.
Today’s pencils, Daggett said, are cell phones, which are owned by more than 93 percent of children age 10 to 18. Using them in classrooms is part of the innovative change he said today’s schools must embrace.
“You need to figure out how to fundamentally use technology more than we currently do in K-12,” he said. “Technology needs to become the disruptive factor it has everywhere else in life.”
The keynote speaker at Tuesday night’s Forum on the Future of Education, Daggett held a pair of meetings with area educators on Wednesday.
During the morning, he spoke to representatives from most of Northeast Mississippi’s 32 school districts about how their schools can best prepare students for a rapidly evolving world.
In the afternoon, he was the primary presenter at the Community Development Foundation’s annual Industry Education Day. Speaking to all Tupelo and Lee County teachers, he described why such transformational changes are needed and how technology can help.
“We need to find ways in education to better use the technology students know well,” said Shannon Middle School Assistant Principal Rodney Spears.
Daggett noted schools must teach reading across all subject areas and that they must be structured so that teachers get the support they need. He said educators must collaborate across disciplines and those from different schools should share practices that work well.
“It is critically important that all stakeholders in the schooling of our children come together in these necessary conversations,” Mississippi Interim Superintendent Lynn House said after attending Daggett’s presentations.