I got involved with MOUSE 15 years ago for many reasons. The first is that seeing high school kids who had zero access to technology (aka a computer) so deeply resonated with me. What kind of world would we be if the divide only continued to grow. I thought about the effects on the economy, the mental health effects on these kids if they were unable to compete in a world that is built on technology and the world at large if my kids did not have the ability to connect and compete with kids from all different walks of life. There was also the piece which is believe it was important for my kids to see us give back and make a change because with privelge comes the responsiblity to give back to communities that are not as priveleged as you.
This past week I visiited at school in Chelsea that is fairly new. Next year they will finally have a twelth grade class so the school just started three years ago. The concept of this particular school is that lap tops are used to teach. The good news is the principal gets it and seriously cares about each of her students. She knows that educating on a laptop is not the end all be all but blended learning is. How do you use technology to let each individual grow at their own pace yet teach the fundamentals at the same time.
There are a few things that stuck me and frustrated me on the visit. The kids who are part of the MOUSE squad are amazing. They are all driven, passionate about technology and understand the value of what they are doing for their schools by being the tech team. They have become leaders in their school by keeping the system up and running. As a unit they have formed their own community and provide educate to their own peers to keep their own systems up and running. It is always inspiring to go visit one of the public schools in our city and see the next generation of students who are coming through the NYC school system. The MOUSE kids are generally the ones that have risen to the top. When you meet the other kids you do not always get that good feeling but sometimes a sense of frustration and sadness of how the system does not work.
I guess in the perfect world we would put the Department of Education in cruise control for a year while we took the entire thing apart. Clearing out of layers of jobs that do not need to exist. Rethinking the insanity of the Regent tests where kids are being forced to learn for the test so that the school gets a good ranking and funding. How can we nurture creative thinking on anyones part when you have to educate to a test. The money saved would go towards building systems where teachers can share their curriculums and success from the arts to math to science. I'd put art and music into each school where each kid had to take one of those subjects every single day. I'd also make sure that there was a good hour in the morning and hour in the afternoon for recess in elementary school and even through junior high school. Exercise is key. Maybe if many of those boys were allowed to run off steam early on they would not be tagged so easily as having ADD which starts off a series of issues down the line. I'd rethink what we are teaching the next generation. Why isn't computer science being taught in every seventh grade class just to begin the introduction to technology. There should be a balance between liberal arts, math, science, technology, arts, music and physical education. How else do kids grow and find the areas that they are passionate about if they don't have access to it. The entire system needs to be blown up and rebuilt. The money is there it is currently just is spent on unions and overhead that is not necessary. Sad and true.
There was one kid in the class that really stuck with me. He was a kid who had some special needs. This was not a kid who could go home every night and memorize for a test. BTW, nobody should. Education is best when you are able to identify a problem, break it down and then put it back together. This kid had just read the book The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I loved the book. He had put together a video on the book with music and words that told the story of what he got from the book. He was so proud of his work as he should be. It was magical watching his eyes light up as we watched his book report. This is not a kid who could sit down and write out a book report but the good thing is he was in a school with a solid staff and principal who applauded this type of work. This is a kid who might not pass the Regents exam and be sent somewhere else to make sure he does. What happens to these kinds of kids who don't make it because of this type of education, they end up dropping out and it doesn't take much to see their future.
I am so proud of what MOUSE has built. They are honestly saving one kid at a time and that totals up to 23,000 kids we have touched. Figuring out how to work within the public schools and be a provider of a positive program that gets the kids who are turned on by technology to move forward into higher education is amazing. They are also providing a huge solid to the Board of Education as there are no IT people in any of the schools. MOUSE is training students to be those IT people and they are called the MOUSE squad. These kids are making a change and are saving the system millions of dollars. MOUSE squad is a value add and every single junior high and high school should be required to integrate the MOUSE squad team and curriculum into their schools. It would be a win win for everyone.