Our School, Interview with Author Joanne Jacobs

Today we sit down with author Joanne Jacobs. Joanne is a freelance writer and former columnist for the San Jose Mercury news. She has written the book Our School, which documents the development of a San Jose charter school. She is here to discuss her views on education an technology.

1. What inspired you to start blogging and write Our School?

I worked for many years as an editorial writer and op-ed columnist for the San Jose Mercury News and Knight Ridder. Based in Silicon Valley, I came to write more and more about education, which I think is critical for our nation’s economic and social health; it also was not well reported. Many teachers and principals seemed very frustrated by the challenges of educating kids from low-income and non-English-speaking families. The only optimists I met were starting charter schools. So I decided to quit my job in 2001 (not realizing the economy was going to crash), start a blog to keep in touch with readers (not realizing that blogging was about to take off) and writ a book about a start-up charter school dedicated to teaching underachieving kids from Mexican-American and immigrant families. “Our School” came out in late 2005 with the paperback in 2007. The school in my book, San Jose’s Downtown College Prep, sends all its students to college, if they stick with the program.

2. Why is the current generation of students different from past ones in terms of technology?

The current generation is very familiar with technology. They do a lot of quick reading and note writing (texting); they also are much more likely to know how to make videos. I’m not sure they read or write as well as my generation (baby booomers).

3. As a teacher, how do you see technology changing education?

As a non-teacher, I think online education will become a huge force at the college level. While some 18-22-year-olds want a traditional college experience, most college students want to earn job credentials as quickly, cheaply and efficiently as possible; they will go online, especially when online teaching improves. I haven’t yet seen breakthrough K-12 technology, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s developed in the next few years. We are seeing technology making it much easier to homeschool.

4. What is the biggest obstacle in integrating technology in education and the classroom?

Often schools buy technology and then figure out what to do with it. They need to start by thinking about what to teach and how best to teach it, then figure out if technology will help or not. Also, many schools have little or no tech support. Anything that breaks stays broken. Teacher training always is inadequate.

5. Do you think it is possible to one day have an all-online classroom?

Mature, motivated students can learn in an all online classroom. I’m dubious about going all online for children, though there will be a few exceptions.

Thanks for sitting down with us Joanne. Again, you can find her book Our School on Amazon here. For more information on democratizing education, see Udemy’s main website here.