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December 13. 2013 10:39PM

Bedford mulls high school technology

BEDFORD — The high school is looking to enhance and manage students’ future learning through technology and better prepare teachers to create a web-based curriculum.

Terry Bullard, the director of technology at Bedford High School, recently presented three technology integration models to the school board — the current model of using computer labs and mobile carts; the One-to-One; and BYOD, the Bring Your Own Device model. Because of the benefits, she is recommending moving to the One-to-One model because it provides the same device to each student, which allows them to learn anywhere and anytime at home or at school, and offers better classroom management.

“Our teaching must reflect how students learn and we think we need to recognize that students today are a little different from when some of us went to school many moons ago in a more traditional environment,” she said.

“Today’s students are digital natives. They know nothing else. They’re born into the technological world. They live it, they depend on it, and it’s part of their world.”

Although students can text, email or play video games, that doesn’t make them digital learners, she said.

“We need to produce digital learners and not just digital consumers,” Bullard said.

In the 21st century classroom, information is abundant, content is integrated with other subjects and real-world issues, and students are expected to work with others.

The models compared

With the computer labs and mobile cart model, everything is controlled by the district and is school financed, but there are only so many labs for the 1,400 high school students, she said. It also requires juggling and pre-planning schedules, and teachers often have to request carts weeks in advance.

The One-to-One model is either parent or district funded, and offers controlled network access and security. Teachers also have more control over classroom management, she said.

“Just because we have laptops and devices doesn’t mean we use them every second of every day. It’s up to the teacher and how they integrate them into their classrooms,” she said. “Once the newness wears off with this and you build a culture, over time the students know what’s expected of them and teachers develop more engaging lessons.”

For the One-to-One model, Bullard is recommending Chromebooks, which complements the district’s Schoogle — the school Chrome account. The devices cost $200 to $400 each and offer immediate backups and take only 8 seconds to boot, in contrast to the mobile carts which take 10 minutes.

The BYOD model presents benefits and drawbacks. The benefits to the district include the model is parent funded, which means families provide the device and bear the cost of repairs and loss; the product is usually up to date; and students can learn anytime by logging into the school’s system. Having different devices in the classroom is one of the drawbacks because of operating systems and teachers having no control over students running programs that are loaded onto their personal devices.

“There is also the need to provide loaner devices because not all students have devices to bring in and we need to supply them with something,” Bullard said.

In addition, not every student knows how to handle problems, making it necessary for the teacher to take time from the lesson to correct a tech-support issue.

Parent survey results

She said in a recent survey for grades 7 to 12, 1,055 parents responded, with 98 percent of homes having Wifi connections, most have shared devices at home, and those computers are used for homework and preparing school presentations. Also, 83 percent of parents said the benefits of students having their own devices include the ability to access textbooks online and it would help students track assignments.

Concerns included the students’ ability to use it for socialization instead of doing homework, and being distracted in school. In rating the One-to-One model, 28.3 percent would consider parents funding the costs, while 16.7 said no. Of the parents responding, 562 commented on why students can’t bring their own devices to school, why they should use Chromebooks, the burden of costs for families, and some were concerned about the role of technology in society.

The school board will further discuss which model would be best for the district. Many of the district’s mobile carts are about seven years old, and the time to either replace them or move to a different model is imminent, said Chip McGee, assistant superintendent for curriculum and assessment.

sclark@newstote.com


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