A Vigo County School Board technology subcommittee is expanding the scope of its work to look at what other school districts are doing with technology — and what would work best here to meet the educational needs of children.
Initially, the committee focused on Internet usage policy, but its focus has become much broader as the school district proceeds with a strategic planning process.
As the district conducts community meetings for citizen input, technology is consistently cited as an area needing improvement, said Superintendent Rob Haworth. He recognizes the district’s technology has “significant areas” in need of improvement.
Members of the subcommittee are visiting other school districts to see how they are using technology.
Recently, a group visited Hamilton Southeastern schools, which is in its fifth year since it started phasing in one-to-one [1:1] computing. In 1:1 computing, each student has an electronic device to access the Internet, digital course materials and digital textbooks.
Early next year, committee members will visit MSD Wayne Township schools and it’s anticipated at least one other district.
“We’re looking at how different school districts are using technology,” Haworth said Thursday. “That includes talking to schools that have 1:1, or one device per student ... We’re probably at the end of that trend. Most schools are already there.”
He also suggested, “Do we need to skip the 1:1 step because something else now is greater on the horizon?”
The Vigo County School Corp. will take the approach that change and improvements in technology will be done “to fit our district,” he said. The first thing the district, and community, must determine is, “What do you want the technology to do?” and how will it assist the district in educating young people.
The committee met Friday afternoon and heard from Wes Molyneaux, director of technology integration at Elkhart Community Schools, where Haworth served as superintendent prior to coming to Terre Haute. Molyneaux is an Apple distinguished educator.
The Elkhart school system has been preparing for, and this year is implementing, a K-12 one-to-one program using iPads, and it has had pilot programs over the last two years. At the start of this school year, high school students have been able to take iPads home, and now, middle school students are starting to take them home.
At the elementary level, two schools have rolled out 1:1 so far, although the iPads are not leaving the school yet. Twelve remaining elementaries will be going 1:1 over the next 11 months. “It’s going really well. We continue to have professional development needs,” Molyneaux said.
Molyneaux’s advice to Vigo County schools is “to have a shared vision of what you want to do before you jump in, and also have a plan for professional development” of educators.
Those who visited Hamilton Southeastern also talked about what they saw. “I saw 21st Century learning at its best,” said Robin Smith, Terre Haute North Vigo High School principal. Melissa Nail, a faculty member in Indiana State University’s College of Education, said she was impressed by the student engagement she saw in classes.
At the end of the meeting, Haworth suggested more community partners serve on the committee, which includes VCSC teachers, principals and administrators, as well as representatives from Indiana State and Ivy Tech. He suggested representatives from industry, other local colleges, the Vigo County Public Library and more parents.
Since the district recruits teachers from ISU, Haworth wants to work closely with its teacher preparation program and perhaps develop some agreements.
One issue he hopes to address administratively relates to teacher access to YouTube and some other websites educators would like to use for classroom purposes.
Currently, immediate access to YouTube and some other sites is blocked and educators must contact the VCSC information technology help desk to “unblock” it for a limited time, which can take about a day or two. Teachers want to be able to access YouTube content — and some other sites now blocked — in a more timely fashion, particularly if it ties in with a news event or a classroom lesson.
“They may lose a teachable moment,” said Alpa Patel, who has chaired the technology committee, in a prior interview.
Haworth said his intent is to unblock some of those sites so teachers have greater access and don’t have to have prior clearance.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at email@example.com Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.