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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

District to study use of student-owned technology

A reminder of what is missing from Wallingford. I am not suggesting, necessarily, that we have to keep up with the Smiths and the Joneses but we should be doing what we can to keep ahead of the Flintstones

As published in the Record Journal, Tuesday March 13, 2012

By Kimberly Primicerio
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2279

SOUTHINGTON — Over the next six weeks, parents, students and educators serving on the school district’s technology advisory committee will research the use of student- owned technology in classrooms.

The committee found out on Monday the work it faces. The group will look into the district’s current technology policy and will decide if anything needs to be changed regarding student use of cellphones, e-readers and computer tablets in the classroom.

The school system is trying to determine if any of this increasingly popular technology should be embraced in the classroom as an aid to the education process. By April 20, School Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi Jr. hopes to have the group present its findings and recommendations.

“We’ll have some deep conversations,” Erardi said at the committee’s first meeting, at Plantsville School. “It’s a simple task, but it’s complicated.”

He said it’s possible the committee could establish no new practices, but he doesn’t think that would be a good outcome. Taking controversial positions on technology is OK, Erardi said.

Before research tasks were divided among committee members, the group looked at school technology protocol and shared opinions.

Suzanne Hodges, a science teacher at the high school, said student-owned electronics are stored in lockers and are not to be used during the school day. Exceptions are made in some classes for tablets and e-readers.

Debbie Miller, a technology analyst at the elementary schools, called the existing policies antiquated.

“The cellphone policy is unrealistic,” said Cheryl Hilton-Campbell, a committee member who is PTO president at Kelley School.

Hilton-Campbell said that while the cellphones shouldn’t be on and should be stored in lockers, that’s not what’s really going on in the schools.

“I think we need to establish ethics on how to use the technology responsibly,” she said. “The technology needs to be used, but it’s vital to use it the right way.”

Spencer Richards, PTO co-president at Kennedy Middle School, agreed and said children need to be learning and using the technology.

As the conversation continued, it came out that schools prohibit the use of cellphones but many allow e-readers. Teachers are finding out that many students, even children in elementary school, have their own e-readers.

Pam Aldi, assistant principal at Kennedy Middle School, said that as long as teachers are monitoring students, the e-readers help students with reading. It makes them feel comfortable at their reading level since other students can’t see what they’re reading. Text can also be enlarged and sentences can be highlighted, she said.

Abigail Harris, a sophomore at Southington High School, said technology use is inevitable, and students, faculty and administrators need to move on together.

After the exchange of opinions, committee members were assigned jobs. One group will talk with personnel in other school districts to find out how they embrace technology and what works for them.

Another group, including students from the high school, was tasked with coming up with survey questions. Such questions will ask teachers and students if they have certain devices and what they use them for. The surveys will give the committee numbers to work with and a good idea of how ubiquitous technology has become.

Erardi said the group’s mission is not to create a new policy through its findings and suggestions, but to come up with practices. The practices will be presented to the Board of Education and, if the board finds them appropriate, a new policy on technology will be crafted.

The committee will meet again on April 2.