While bookless classrooms are still several years away from reality in Bristol Warren schools, the district is taking strides to incorporate the use of iPhone and iPad technology into the 2014-2015 curriculum.
The Bristol Warren Regional School Committee received a presentation of the district’s plan at its meeting Tuesday night. Superintendent Mario Andrade and Assistant Superintendent Diane Sanna outlined the district’s plan, and reasons for such a plan, to utilize available technology as an education tool.
“(It’s) not changing because it’s the latest and greatest thing coming down the pike,” Mr. Andrade said. The goal, he said, is to have “college and career-ready children.”
During the presentation, Mr. Andrade demonstrated how using a free, interactive web based program, teachers and students can communicate with one another at any time by typing, voice recording or video. Part of the process is to encourage teachers and students to share their studies, discoveries, ideas and questions using such social media platforms as Twitter and Facebook. Teachers will also be able to increase their use of applicable websites in their lesson plans.
Last year the school district purchased laptops for every student in grades three and four. This year the district approved spending to outfit fifth graders with similar technology. The future goal is to utilize available technology and encourage a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) philosophy, in which students and teachers can benefit from and take advantage of teachable moments from their personal iPads and iPhones, wherever they may be.
But before the technology transformation can take place, the district needs to initiate change by replacing some old methods with new, technology-based methods, and enhance those new methods so that both expectations and student outcomes rise.
The first plan of action for the district will be to engage teachers in professional development so they are familiar with available technologies and can utilize them for educational purposes.
School committee member Karen Lynch said she recognizes the benefits of bringing technology colder to education, but wondered how effective it would be if not all teachers bought in to the idea.
“If half the staff is using it and half the staff is not,” Ms. Lynch asked, “what is our ability to mandate our teachers?”
As he sees it, Mr. Andrade said the technology transformation isn’t going to be hit or miss. It will be a gradual change that complements the curriculum, resulting in students gaining a higher level of critical thinking, and gain the aptitude for digital test taking.
“The investment is in our educators. The idea is not about technology; it’s about instructional goals. If teachers are not integrating (technology), my question would be are you an effective teacher,” he said.
While the school district still has work to do to ensure that all classrooms have wireless connections to utilize the technology, the plan is for “a small cohort of teachers” to begin training using it in the classroom.
School committee member Bill O’Dell questioned the investment of time and money needed to make such a transformation work. Administrators are confident that money is available through Title II grants, and the investment of time and money are worthy investments for this goal.
The question isn’t “are you getting bang for our buck,” Mr. Andrade said. “But are the students benefitting.”