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Classroom divide: School district, teachers face push-back on technology in the classroom

Original post made on Mar 16, 2011

John Davenport was a chalk-and-graphite kind of teacher, but when the Portola Valley School District started offering laptops and technology training for instructors, he not only tested the waters, he dove right in.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, March 16, 2011, 12:00 AM

Comments (33)

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Posted by Daphna Woolfe
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Mar 16, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Dear Mr. Gibboney,

The recent article published by the Almanac, Too Much Technology in the Portola Valley Schools was the most egregious case of inaccurate reporting I have ever seen in a newspaper. The most troubling aspect of this article is the characterization that both schools in Portola Valley have the same issues with technology. No one at Ormondale was ever interviewed or approached. Not to mention the fact that the vast majority of teachers in both schools use technology with a high degree of confidence and competence. Statements made by individual teachers may apply to them only, as with any new technology and curriculum, there is a learning curve. I would be happy to sit down with anyone on your staff and go over the article point by point and demonstrate why half of the "facts" presented are completely false. At this time, the Almanac should do their due diligence, investigate the real story and then print an apology to the school district, it's teachers, and students.

Daphna Woolfe
Ormondale School
Third Grade


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Posted by Jeffrey Mead
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Mar 17, 2011 at 8:27 am

As a teacher in the Portola Valley School District, I found your recent article, "Too Much Tech?" to be slanted so much as to make the school where I work unrecognizable. Your reporter interviewed an extremely narrow sample of teachers in the district. The experiences of Dr. Davenport and Mr. Dune are not representative of the majority of teachers.

Dr. Davenport's claim that the division of his class is pressuring teachers to scale back on the use of technology is flagrantly ludicrous. He should really stick to "I statements." I attend the same faculty meetings, read the same memos, and have the same principal and superintendent as he does. I have not felt any pressure whatsoever, implicit or explicit, and neither have any of the teachers I have spoken to about this subject. And yes, we all use the same technology as Dr. Davenport does.

The idea that "a lack of guidance led the teachers to implement technology at different levels" is also wrong. Many of our Wednesday faculty meetings are dedicated to technology training. In fact, Dr. Davenport and Mr. Dune have acted as trainers during some of these sessions. Both schools in the district have a competent and eager tech staff available for help and training. In addition, we have TOSAs (Teachers on Special Assignments) who get paid to take on additional duties, many of which are tech related! One man's "lack of guidance" is another man's "academic freedom."

Mr. Dune's statement that "he was told around Thanksgiving that he would not be recommended for rehire" is specious. Contractually, teachers are notified about employment issues in March. Experience has taught me the district rigidly adheres to this deadline.

Your article paints an unfair portrait of the district and teachers. In the future, please strive to write news articles that are fair and balanced.

Jeffrey Mead
Eighth Grade English
Corte Madera School


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Posted by Mary
a resident of Corte Madera School
on Mar 17, 2011 at 10:42 am

Contrary to what your article states, we did not remove our son from Dr. D's class because of the increase use of technology in the classroom but due to the fact that Dr. D himself was not the right teacher to teach our son. My "A" student did not get a grade higher than a "C" when he was in Dr. D's class and not once were we told the reason why. Switching him to the other class has been a blessing for our family.


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Posted by Karen and Guy Lucian
a resident of Corte Madera School
on Mar 17, 2011 at 5:57 pm

We moved our son out of Mr. Davenport's class not because of technology, but because he was receiving a sub par education in social studies, as had several of our older children. The new class is refreshing, on point, appropriately more rigorous, uses technology in well-thought out, integrated ways, and we cannot thank the administration enough for giving us this option. Mr. Davenport lost those students because he was no longer the only game in town, finally, and families took advantage of it.

Certainly, none of the families who switched classes were "sent" to a different class by the District, as stated by the Almanac. All families were given the choice to stay, or switch. The fact that so many families chose to make the change says it all. It is unfortunate the Almanac has chosen to misrepresent this entire situation for the sake of a front page headline grabber.

Karen and Guy Lucian
7th Grade Parents


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Posted by parent of 7th grader at Corte Madera
a resident of Corte Madera School
on Mar 17, 2011 at 9:39 pm

Contrary to the Almanac's assertions, we did not move our child from Mr. Davenport's class due to the use of technology in the classroom. Instead, our child and all the other 7th graders were given two grades total for the first semester's work, instead of weekly assessments. When asked to see work, Mr. Davenport's reply was, "Ask your student to show you his work." The class deteriorated to a self-taught class where my child learned how to plagiarize what was read on-line. When students had a question, they had to submit them in writing to Mr. Davenport, who sat at his desk. They were not allowed to raise their hands to ask a question. Most of the work was group work, and the children were required to handle all conflicts, such as dissension over who was working and who wasn't, on their own. 7th graders need regular assignments and assessments, which can be done through technology or through use of a text. They need to learn how to think critically and apply the lessons of history to current events to be prepared for high school. This is why we moved our child into the new class. WE have no fear of technology in the classroom; Mr. Dune has used it in his classroom very effectively this year and our child has made great strides under his tutelage. I hope you will give equal coverage to the great things happening at Corte Madera School as to the fabrication of one teacher.


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Posted by Corte Madera parent
a resident of Portola Valley: Portola Valley Ranch
on Mar 17, 2011 at 11:23 pm

This really is a weak and one-sided article. Of course there are going to be examples of teachers under- or over-utilizing technology (or textbooks or lectures) But to allow one teacher to paint a sensationalized, unrepresentative picture, unchallenged by the writer, is pretty sloppy journalism.

Clearly the teacher had an axe to grind. He was humiliated by a vote of no confidence from the administrator and a majority of parents (who were given a choice in the matter-we were not forced). His was a cynical classroom of a once inspiring but now aloof and lazy teacher, who often sat at his desk (allegedly working on his book) while the kids taught themselves. Or failed. Whatever.

He was downright hostile to even the most minor questions on behalf of the students. At back-to-school night he was condescending to parents, and only when parents had a choice of an alternative class did he deign to reach out and explain his approach.

There are many great and dedicated teachers in the district, and it's encouraging to see some of them raise their voices here. These teachers have the kids' needs dear to their hearts and work continually to find new and better ways to light a spark in the classroom.

This one teacher has made everyone look foolish and has jeopardized community support for the teachers and the tools that so many use to great effect. I hope the other teachers at both schools know we support them and their use of technology. What he represents is frankly the opposite of what we appreciate about the teachers in general.

I don't like shoddy journalism but I like shoddy teaching even less. Technology is utterly beside the point here. Maybe next time the Almanac could assign a writer who can tell the difference.


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Posted by 6th grade parent
a resident of Corte Madera School
on Mar 18, 2011 at 9:24 am

I am shocked and disappointed by this article. I humbly request the Almanac incorporate these comments into next week's addition; clearly you got the 'news' wrong! As a community, we deserve better than this garbage from our local news source. It is obvious this article was initiated by Dr. Davenport - guess his feelings are hurt.

A huge thanks should go to our school administration for making a bold move to offer our children an alternative. Thank you, thank you for listening to the many parent complaints and taking action. We were thrilled to 'elect' to move our child from Dr. Davenport's class. That doesn't even begin to describe how happy our child was to move. The new teacher is engaging and my child has learned far more in 3 weeks than she did in 5 months in Dr. Davenport's class.

This is more of a case of technology abuse in a classroom than effective technology use. If your writer took a moment to investigate, she wouldn't have had to go very far to see countless examples of thoughtful and constructive uses of technology in our schools.

You want a really good article, talk to the students, as them what they have to say about Dr. Davenport's class and his use of technology. You might hear something like, 'Dr. D stared at his computer again today, eating his banana and never once looked up at us. I don't even think he knows my name!'


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Posted by Linda Yates
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Mar 18, 2011 at 9:48 am

In January of 2006, the Country Almanac wrote a different kind of front page article written by the amazingly experienced and knowledgeable staff writer (of 39 years) Marjorie Mader on an amazing 21st century learning project that the entire Portola Valley School District participated in with world leading paleontologist, Paul Sereno. It was project based, authentic, multidisciplinary with an emphasis on science and it marked the launch of the 21st education transformation that is still ongoing in the district as a collaboration of teachers, administration, staff, parents and students. (Web Link)

Portola Valley is becoming recognized locally and nationally as one of the leading public school districts in the country because of its commitment to creating 21st century learning experiences for its children. I personally, just had a conversation with Jim Shelton, Assistant Secretary for Education Innovation in the Department of Education (under Secretary Arne Duncan) about how amazing the district is and inviting him to come visit. Whether you read Harvard Professor, Tony Wagner's Global Achievement Gap, or watch Sir Ken Robinson's TED talks or RSA Anime on 21st century learning, or follow the activities at the d.school, ed school or other schools at Stanford (or any other major university) working on the urgent need to transform k-12 education, read Tom Friedman or David Brooks' articles or listen to President Obama's State of the Union speech which highlighted a more current, 21st century relevant education as key to the nation's future competitiveness you will find a plethora of data, experience, research and experts laying out the agenda for the future of our schools. All of this information is readily available.

Technology integrated into the classroom across a broad spectrum of uses is obviously key and absolutely supported by the Portola Valley Community, parents, teachers, staff, administration. The thought that there could be too much technology given the tech-savvy and Silicon Valley heavy nature of the community is hardly even worth acknowledging. The story is just wrong on almost every single dimension except that Marcy Barton is one of the leading lights as the leader of the Integrated Exploratory class (the name of the class was not even mentioned in the article nor explored and it is so much more than technology).

The blog posts above represent only a few of the voices who have yet to be heard on this article. To simplify the effort, a letter to the Almanac is being circulated within the community which will be jointly signed by a very large number of parents, teachers, staff and will be forthcoming. Regards.


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Posted by Parent of a Current 7th Grader
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Mar 18, 2011 at 10:52 am

Would like to comment on the PVSD Article on Technology


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Posted by Jane Doe
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Mar 18, 2011 at 10:53 am

Would like to comment on PVSD article


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Posted by Seventh grade parent
a resident of Corte Madera School
on Mar 18, 2011 at 11:30 am

First I want to say I look forward with hope to next week's issue, and an article which is a follow-up to this one. I hope it, too, will be on the front page--anywhere else would simply be unfair to the enormous number of people this article did not represent, the untruth it held forth as truth--as well as to the Almanac's reputation itself.

I was a journalist for a while in a long ago life. We were paid to listen deeply, and between the lines, then question (uncomfortably even), probe, and widen or focus our research as a result. Perhaps next week's article will do this.

To that end, I thought I would respectfully offer some additional questions for the reporter, questions overlooked in this article.

Unless the employee has done something newsworthy in a positive way, can an administration legally discuss an employee with a newspaper?

Does not discussing this employee in public mean something corrupt or devious about the administration?

If an administration (of school, business or otherwise) CANNOT LEGALLY DISCUSS A PROBLEM EMPLOYEE, what be might other sources who would accurately represent the possible reasons for their decisions?

If only the president of the board is legally allowed to discuss an employee with a paper, what might that mean about that employee's situation?

If an administration hires, mid-semester in this tough economy's tight school budget knowing the possible backlash, a new teacher to offer an alternative class to two grades of students--what might that mean?

If the new teacher's classes offer an alternative to the classes of a teacher who is firmly entrenched as both tenured and president of the teacher's union, must there not have been (LEGALLY) attempts at communication, intervention, alternative solutions, before that?

Wouldn't a move, on such shaky grounds as a teacher embracing technology too much, be a litigiously dangerous thing to do?

Is not this hiring a legally dangerous thing to unless prior (and multiple) attempts at remedy can be proved in court?

In this technology-based community, might there be other reasons so many children were immediately switched by their parents out of the original teacher's classroom--other than he was too enthusiastic about technology?

When an administration is behaving honorably toward an employee who has perhaps given them much trouble--enough to do all this--how else might you view the things that employee is willing to say about the school, children, etc in a newspaper article? If they are willing to discuss this so openly, how might they have comported themselves around the time this issue first became public?

How likely is it that the employee at the center of this article might not have been representing the whole truth? What are other possible takes on what he had to say? Where might you find those sources?

How much of this article was based on what teachers throughout the PV community had to say and how much was based on the teachers recommended for interview by Mr. Davenport?

What are the possibilities that this article might have been, instead, an article on how a new administration has done something brave and difficult that no other prior administration was willing to take on--offer an alternative to an incredibly ineffective but incredibly entrenched teacher?

If a school has a bad, or more than one bad, teacher they are trying to work with--what does an inflammatory article like this do for the process of removing that teacher? Was that your goal?


I am so proud of the Portola Valley schools. The education is rich, varied, and continually encourages the love of learning and development of critical thinking skills. The teachers and administrators, by and large, are fabulous. There are important tenure decisions that will come before the board in the future. I hope your article does not upend the difficult decisions they must sometimes make in the best interest of our children and our schools.

I look forward to next week's article.





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Posted by Student
a resident of Corte Madera School
on Mar 18, 2011 at 1:17 pm

I have switched to Mr.Sato's class recently, and we are already learning much, much more. Our tests are not research papers, but actual tests. The tests actually test our knowledge of the subject, not our note taking and essay skills.

I am extremely happy that I moved, and I will never go back. Dr. Davenport might be more exciting, but I am definitely learning more in Mr. Sato's class


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Posted by Student
a resident of Corte Madera School
on Mar 18, 2011 at 1:23 pm

I recently switched to MR. Sato's class and so far, i am very impressed with what we have gotten done so far. We learning at an incredible pace. So far, we have just finished West Africa, within a few weeks. For example, when my classmates where in Dr. Davenport's class, we would spend many months learning about the subject. For me it felt like we where repeating what we learning, over, and over again.
I am very satisfied with Mr. Sato, and i cant believe i am learning this fast!


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Posted by Parent/multiple grades
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Mar 18, 2011 at 3:02 pm

21st century learning, which is inextricably tied to the use of technology is critical to the development of the children in all school districts. As with any classroom tool, teachers need to integrate it in an effective manner.
From my perspective, John Davenport came into Portola Valley as a teacher with a powerful and persuasive lecture style. He encouraged his students to think about history and even inspired them. When my children were in his class, they enjoyed his lecture style, loved the no homework policy (which I didn't mind), but were confused about where their grades came from. Later, he began to ask his students to memorize his version of history, then take fill in the blank tests, correct the tests themselves and this was their grade. Then a project was begun, for which the students put in a good deal time, but received no feedback or grade. By this time my children became disenchanted. One of them was sent to the library with a group of students to work on projects to be presented to the class. this lasted for 2-3 months. They were not monitored by Mr. Davenport.
My concern at the time was Mr. Davenport's lack of individual feedback, interaction and guidance with his students. Since Mr. Davenport did seem to encourage student contact, I can only imagine what happened when computers entered the scene this year.
For the Almanac to print an article based on the efforts of one disgruntled employee, who does not seem to understand his own teaching deficiencies is bad journalism.


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Posted by parent/multiple grades
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Mar 18, 2011 at 3:13 pm

I am the author of the last blog comment. At the end of the comment, I wrote in error about Mr. Davenport's interactions with students, let me be clear, Mr. Davenport did NOT encourage student interaction with him on any level.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Mar 18, 2011 at 4:24 pm

I was amazed at the grandeur of how this article was displayed in the Almanac. I thought this should be interesting, but soon realized that the only accurate parts of the article were names and a few statistics-some of which were used to mislead, such as: students being sent to the other class. They were given the option to leave, and the numbers are staggering.

Our child left his class because the teacher wasn't teaching. There were assessments done, but the results were never revealed. Our student felt that none of her work was read by the teacher-just a random grade assigned with little or no feedback. Online grades were slow in coming and sparse at best. The instructor had "no time" to help individuals, and often had students take book notes for up to 90 minutes in class while the teacher sat at his computer. Reports from other students, as well as our own observation, was that there was a fair amount of direct copying (some of which was our child's work) by other team members (easy to do while collaborating online), as well as from the online reference sources. Our older student performed poorly on the star testing for Social Studies because much of the material was never covered in this class using the old pedagogy. We hope this won't happen again and are glad to have the option to have a new teacher who wants to teach using which ever style that really works.

Technology really is not the issue; since, before Mr Davenport implemented this new pedagogic tool, the students weren't being taught either. This teacher, who has a PhD in history, could probably teach a fantastic class if he spent less time fighting the administration as a union rep, writing history books or involving the Almanac to distract from his poor efforts as a teacher. He should focus more on his students' educational experience and learning and make us not regret teacher tenure.

The administration made a bold move to combat teacher complacency and should be applauded for putting the students' best interests first. They invariably have a tricky landscape to navigate.

I too hope that the Almanac does something to clear up this poorly researched article, which is really an HR issue being fought in a public forum .


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Posted by 7th Grade student
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Hills
on Mar 18, 2011 at 5:50 pm

I also recently switched to Mr. Sato's class and at first objected. But now that we are a month in to his class, I feel like I am learning much more and in a more inviting environment. We actually have tests, like another student mentioned, and we went back in the curriculum and learned a unit that his class skipped over. Everyone in the grade had a choice, and now I realize the choice was for the better. Dr. Davenport said he knew just as much as us about what was going to happen, and I feel cheated because that was a lie.


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Posted by 6th Grade Parent
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Mar 18, 2011 at 5:53 pm

The Alamanac story is so entirely "off base" in what occurred in our district. The issue of technology was simply not the core problem in our 6th and 7th grade social studies program. This was a case of a bright, talented and capable teacher getting tenure, avoiding his teaching obligations and focusing on his book.

We moved our child out of Dr. Davenport's class because he refused to teach our child. When we reached out to Dr. Davenport to address our child's poor performance on his essays, he basically refused to work one-on-one with our child and referred him to his website for examples of good work. Dr. Davenport would not engage any further and did not give any comments on the essays themselves other than the grade. We got a strong sense of hostility from him. It was unexpected (and a bit shocking) in light of the wonderful experience we have had in the PVSD through all the years we have been involved in the schools.

I give the administration high marks for bravely taking on this difficult issue and I give the Alamanac low grades for entirely missing the mark on this article. Our school district should not be tainted by the poor research by this writer.


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Posted by A 7th grade parent
a resident of Portola Valley: Los Trancos Woods/Vista Verde
on Mar 18, 2011 at 11:56 pm

This article does a fantastic job of conflating two entirely separate issues, one being the use of technology at Corte Madera School, and the other being an issue with two of the teachers, who coincidentally happen to be just two of the many strong proponents of the use of technology in the classroom at PVSD. It does a wonderful job casting a shadow on the use of technology at CMS by muddying it with parental concerns over teaching styles.

My child is one of those who chose to stay with Dr. Davenport, and has also been thriving this year in English with Mr. Dune. This is his second year with Dr. Davenport. He enjoys doing the research, feels that he gets substantial feedback from the notes and comments that Dr. D makes while he is working on a paper, and just this week said to me, "Dr. D is great. He's always there to help me." My son has to take initiative, he has to work hard, and he is forced to figure more things out by thinking critically, a skill that is unfortunately often not taught in today's schools. Personally, I think that is fantastic training for how he'll be expected to work in high school and college. Is he learning? I can see every day what he's doing by reviewing his google docs and know he's not only learning, he's retaining far more than I ever did through the rote memorization that I wasted my time with in 7th grade.

I recognize that all our children learn differently, and respect that what works well for my son may not work well for another person's child. In fact, I've seen just between my kids that a teacher who is great for one would not be the best choice for another. Dr. Davenport has a unique teaching style that puts a lot of responsibility on the kids, and not all kids can handle that. The use of technology is truly central to how Dr. Davenport teaches, and I believe it's giving my child invaluable experience in how he is going to be expected to function in the real world. I work as a technology executive and use shared Google docs daily with my team. I connect over Skype and use multi-person chat sessions with people across the world to get products built and shipped. Regardless of their ultimate field of interest, our children need to learn to be facile with these technologies as tools that will help them find what they need more quickly and collaborate with others effectively. They are in no way substitutes for great teachers, but they can and do enable more engaging and effective ways for most kids to learn.

We need to separate the discussion of the use of technology and the teachers. Our children are living in the heart of technology, and we owe it to them to teach them how to use technology to their best advantage. Kudos to the teachers who have taken the time to re-orient how they teach by integrating these tools, not only to help our children learn to think and to work independently, but to take the technology available to them and put it to the best use that they can. We are exceedingly fortunate that our teachers have access to this equipment through the Foundation, and I thank them for stepping up and accepting the challenge of preparing our children to thrive in the 21st century with technology as an enabler.

I can only speak for my son, but Dr. Davenport has been a fantastic teacher for him and I felt it was important to show another point of view on his teaching style. As for Mr. Dune, I know that my son is saddened that he will not be back next year as he has really enjoyed English this year, and has appreciated the effort that Mr. Dune has put into making the class engaging and interesting. I am deeply disheartened at the tone of some of these comments about teachers who spend much of their livelihoods doing their best for our kids.


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Posted by Also a 7th grade parent
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Mar 19, 2011 at 10:36 am

I hope the point of the debate is not getting lost here. This is not question of Davenport as a good or bad teacher, but rather about a poorly conceived, poorly written article which does not accurately reflect the use of technology by teachers in the Portola Valley School District, or the administrations support of its use.

Families were not forced to make the change of social studies classrooms, as written at the beginning of the article. Obviously, the families who chose to stay did so because they felt their children were in the right spot. Those who did not had equally compelling reasons, but this is a side issue to the overall "point" of the article, which was poorly researched, just plain bad reporting, and the Almanac owes everyone involved a huge apology.


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Posted by Kim Brown
a resident of Corte Madera School
on Mar 19, 2011 at 10:54 am

As a member of the PVSD technology team, the recent article published by the Almanac was extremely disappointing. I had the opportunity to meet with Ms. Simon at the time she was conducting her research for the article. Since much of what was discussed in that lengthy conversation was not utilized, I feel a responsibility to reflect and communicate some of the key points. Because each classroom is full of students who have a diverse set of learning needs, we cannot define good, integrated technology as a laptop running some cloud-based apps -- as primarily represented in her questions and in the article. A universally designed learning environment will incorporate the right suite of tools to engage and effectively enable all learners to access the curriculum equally and technology helps to enable and deliver on that. Our district technology suite has much depth to the offerings and many of our teachers, experiencing success, understand the need to utilize the right tool at the right time. Furthermore, the "traditional" classroom mentioned in the article is anything but. This classroom, has a deeper tool offering than the classrooms highlighted in the article. And a key reason is the desire of the district administration to ensure teachers have the tools they need and desire to deliver an engaging learning environment. Another key reason is the desire of the teacher to be an effective partner in defining and integrating the tools.


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Posted by classified staff member
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Mar 19, 2011 at 11:02 am

I have to disagree with the Westridge neighbor who stated that "I hope the point of the debate is not getting lost here". This article of Mr. Davenport's is only one small example of the disruption and chaos that he brings to our campus. I cannot fathom the hours the Administration and the Board must spend dealing with his antics. It's time for the community to see what Mr. Davenport is doing to our school and put a stop to it. He is not good for Corte Madera or its students.


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Posted by Darius Mohsenin
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 19, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Did I miss the memo that announced that "damn" is now an appropriate word for 10 year olds to use at school and speaking to an adult?

I'm not blaming the school or the child's parent's; rather, I blame the Fox network for sometime in the mid '90's lowering the bar for what we all considered "swear words" by letting Bart Simpson introduce "damn" and "ass" to what was once the Sunday night family hour on TV. Now, children of all ages can't escape the barrage of these words (and much worse) from all networks, cable, music, and even billboards(I complained to a company that advertised on a billboard on 101 that they made "the Internet Kick Ass"--the "ass" was scratched out a week after my complaint at least).


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Posted by Parent of a current Dr. Davenport student
a resident of Corte Madera School
on Mar 19, 2011 at 4:02 pm

AS a parent of a sixth grade student in Dr. Davenport's class, this article clearly appears a one-sided and an obvious attempt on the part of a disgruntled teacher or two to air their beef with the administration to a public forum. However, my child decided to stay (we gave her the choice) in Dr. Davenport's class and she is happy and appears to be thriving in it.

Granted, it appears that Dr. Davenport may have gotten some of the "message" and has balanced his class with a mix of traditional lectures, documentary shows, and projects where the technology is simply an enabler--not an end in itself. My daughter has learned the evolution of humans, Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, Eastern religions (Dr. Davenport even showed them how to meditate), and will begin China soon and Ancient Greece.

And the best part is--my child is only one of ten students! I don't think the Priory can boast of that class size.

I feel lemons turned into lemonade for my kid. Perhaps, Dr. Davenport could enjoy a banana or two.


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Posted by A former teacher and a current parent
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Mar 19, 2011 at 5:33 pm


As a former teacher in the district, and as a current parent with children at both Corte Madera and Ormondale, I am beyond dismayed by the inaccuracies in this clearly, one sided, biased article. Ten years ago there was a boom in technology, and I was teaching at Corte Madera. The district would sponsor workshops for us to learn how to best utilize the new technology in the classroom, spending money on substitutes so that we, as a staff, could work together and make decisions we felt would help students. The staff I was part of (many of whom are still teaching there today) had many lively discussions, as we embraced the change, rolled up our sleeves, and got to work implementing the new technology into our classrooms and thus creating 21st century learners. Marcy Barton was instrumental in helping us learn to teach with the new technology, but it was not implemented without full district support. As a parent, my children are benefiting from the continued support from the district and I am amazed and grateful to the teachers who are utilizing the technology and continuing to fine tune their programs.

There is a story here about Dr. D, however, it isn't the one that you told. I would invite you to revisit this story, do what clearly was not done before, talk with parents, faculty and staff, and realize that your reporter did a disservice to an entire community who values education and supports our schools.


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Posted by Corte Madera Parent
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 19, 2011 at 7:29 pm

As much as I'd like to weigh in, I will instead ask that we parents keep this discussion focused on Dr. D and the article at hand and leave the tenure review of Mr. Dune off the page. To defend or criticize him in this venue only drags a discussion, which should remain within the school community and the respectful process laid out for us, in appropriately out into the public. Our administration, teacher's union, and school board have offered all parents the opportunity to weigh in--via letter or meeting. Let's not do it here; the kids are an online part of this almanac discussion because one teacher chose to take it into the public forum. The process for discussion of tenure (and therefore a person), especially when it is heated and even if it has been introduced in the classroom, should be honored by us and be kept where it belongs--not here.


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Posted by Corte Madera parent
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Mar 20, 2011 at 12:57 am

As a parent of a seventh grader who was in Dr. D's class and also someone who participated in online learning through a local college I have to say the interface of Dr. D's supposedly 7th grade level cloud based computing to be completely primitive and user unfriendly. I know for a fact that it did not have to be this complicated because this college's online learning program designed for college level students was far more intuitive and user friendly. This begs the questions: did anyone among the administration, board or parent advocates investigate any successful educational programs that effectively integrate technology in their teaching before implementing the 21st century learning technology directive? How much direction and oversight is given to these teachers who are likely to be technological neophytes other that being told to just do it? What happenened in Dr. D's classroon appears to me to be partially due to poor planning and lack of oversight and also the rush to respond to a select group of parents demands to implement 21st century learning.


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Posted by 7th Grade Parent
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Mar 20, 2011 at 2:01 pm

My child and we decided to stay in Dr. Davenport's class because he was a great teacher and has become the same as he was. The bad patch that most of the parents and children suffered because he changed to technology as dictated by the administration and was told that he must change because these children are extremely computer and technology savvy and his method was outdated. I believe he argued against it but had to give in. Naturally he was not happy teaching and changing over and found out that only 10% are skilled at cloud computing. I agree he changed but that is what ADMINISTRATION wanted and of course parents and kids started to suffer. My child did complain that it's no more fun in Dr. D's class and we went to him asking what is going on and he said that he was forced to change. I have NEVER had problems with his grading or posting or giving us feedback. The new teacher issue was extremely distasteful and insulting to a senior teacher. Parents should have been invited to the MUR and explained instead of an email a week prior.They should have invited Dr. D to speak and explain his part. Dr. D was not informed that a new teacher has been hired . Mr We knew that there would be a mass exodus from his class and our child will benefit eventually. It's clear that a senior Administration person wants to bring in her buddies from Palo Alto schools.
Our child is very happy in Dr. D's class and .


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Posted by Concerned 7th Grade Parent
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Mar 20, 2011 at 2:34 pm

I read the Almanac article, "Classroom Divide" and immediately thought there is something fishy going on. How did the Almanac decide to do an article on technology in the Portola Valley School District? The article was billed as an update on technology and the divide between parents and teachers on how it was being implemented in the classroom. As I read the article further, I realized that this article was more about the teaching, or lack thereof in Mr. Davenport's classroom. According to the article Mr. Davenport said that the extensive use of technology prompted school officials to divide his class in two. You would think he was given plenty of feedback from parents and administration on his teaching performance before the district made such a bold move as to hire another social studies teacher. From this, one could draw the conclusion that Mr. Davenport did not heed the feedback and the administration had no other choice but to offer an alternative social studies class. Considering how important it is to have good labor relations between teachers and administration, and considering that Mr. Davenport is tenured, I would find it fascinating and incomprehensible that the school district would ignore this important protocol.

The article goes on to state that the Portola Valley School District spent around 4M on technology in the last four years. So why would a district that spent this kind of money not embrace it in the classroom? It seems contradictory.

I was "wide-eyed" to find out that Mr. Davenport had copied and pasted the 7th grade social studies standards into homework assignments, and then asked students to come up with research questions from those standards. The standards are written in "education-speak" that are incomprehensible for the layperson to understand. While doing research our child found the exact words used in Mr. Davenport's assignment sheet on the California State Standards web site – this is not what we consider to be innovative or creative use of technology. Teachers should use the state standards as a basis for providing a creative and engaging curriculum, which clearly wasn't happening in Mr. Davenport's class. We are not interested in a "cut and paste" education.


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Posted by Portola Valley SD Parent
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Mar 20, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Regarding "it's pretty damned awesome": Why didn't Ms. Barton object to such language? I don't tolerate such language at home, and I don't want it to be tolerated or reinforced by teachers at school.


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Posted by Rick Friedman
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Mar 21, 2011 at 7:41 am

As the parent of students in Dr. Davenport's class this year, I will, along with my fellow parents, express my complete disgust for the quality of the journalism in this article. I will not repeat what others have said previously as I think the reasons for my disgust are clear. I will add the following: unless I see a front-page article explaining this issue in a more fact-based and balanced manner by the end of the month, I will be contacting all of your advertisers to explain precisely why I will no longer be using their services.


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Posted by Michele Turner
a resident of Portola Valley: Los Trancos Woods/Vista Verde
on Mar 21, 2011 at 11:50 am

As Shane's mom I was pretty upset to see that particular quote from my son. He doesn't talk like that at home (and we don't watch TV so he didn't pick it up there). However after talking to him and finding out that he had about a five minute interview with the reporter, I had to wonder why out of all of that, quoting a 10 year old using a swear word was all Ms. Simon could come up with to use? I am sure there were more interesting things she could have gleaned from him.

Indeed, bad language from my son, which has been discussed with him, but further evidence of really shoddy journalism and editing. Also, we were never contacted by the Almanac for permission to quote our son, which is typically common courtesy when interviewing a minor. Shane's been quoted in the SF Chronicle and other larger papers, and the writers have always asked my permission in advance.


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Posted by elle
a resident of Woodside School
on Mar 27, 2011 at 5:12 pm

In response, to the student's mom (the student who was quoted as using a swear word), it's great that your family isn't watching TV. I just wanted to point out though, that anything on TV, is available on the internet, soooo, as long as kids are surfing the net they can see and hear anything.

In general, I'm not sure why the rush for integrating technology for 10 year olds, none of us Silicon Valley adults had it when we were 10 and we're pretty good at our high tech jobs here. I'm just saying..... think about the big picture.


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