Washington eyes classroom technology upgrades

August 27, 2013
Technology upgrades may be on the horizon for Washington High School. - Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

Washington Superintendent Roberta DiLorenzo envisions a day in the near future when students will be able to learn in the classroom using personal e-readers and even cellphones.

But how and when to implement such a system using school infrastructure while also protecting students from entering unsavory websites would be tricky and needs serious planning, DiLorenzo said.

With that in mind, Washington School Board Monday night delayed a decision on whether to pay $9,000 for a consultation from nTouch, which is represented by city Councilman Matt Staniszewski.

Board members said they want to hold off on a decision about the consultation for at least two months, when renovations and upgrades will be completed at Washington Park Elementary School and the high school. Once that work is finished, school officials say they’ll have the ability to assess the updated technological infrastructure within the district and how it could be better used.

“It’s just timing,” DiLorenzo said about the consultation. “We want to do it at a more optimal time. That doesn’t mean years.”

While some area school districts have purchased laptop computers or e-readers for every student, DiLorenzo wonders if such devices even need to be provided nowadays. She admitted they would still need to implement a system that offers comparable devices to students who don’t already own them.

“The question for schools today is BYOT,” DiLorenzo said. “Are we moving toward ‘Bring Your Own Technology’ since most kids are carrying their own computers in their pockets? So why are we buying or giving them computers when they already have it?”

How that system would function in the classroom could be limitless, DiLorenzo said. However, the uncontrolled nature of the Internet worried some school directors.

“That’s the tug-of-war,” DiLorenzo said. “We’re trying to find a middle ground. We’re approaching it cautiously and certainly don’t have our heads in the sand of what is out there.”

She also acknowledged they would need to get district staff acclimated to any changes and understand that a smooth transition to any new technology would take some time. Washington and many other school districts are already using “smart boards” in their classrooms to enhance learning.

DiLorenzo pointed to programs that allow students to answer questions on smart boards using their cellphones. Teachers also could respond to questions in similar fashion.

Ultimately, if the district conducts the technology study, DiLorenzo said they want to make sure any changes would enhance learning.

“We need to introduce the teachers to this technology and get our staff ready first. Once they’re used to it, they can use it for the instruction,” DiLorenzo said. “There are a few minor ways to use those tools to transition students and teachers into using their personal equipment. That’s definitely the way it’s going to go.”

Mike Jones has been a news reporter since 2005, covering crime, state and municipal government, education and energy. In addition to working at the Observer-Reporter, he also has spent time at the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail and Patch.com. He holds a journalism degree from West Virginia University.

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