Members of the board of education (BOE) and teachers are searching for common ground as the district forges ahead with an updated technology plan.
The board’s technology committee met recently to parse through the approximately $1.2 million worth of requests the board has received from across the district, ranging from new hardware and software, to updating and expanding the district network.
Board Member A. Leigh Powell, who heads the technology committee, said rather than simply throw money at new technology, the district needs to developer a broad framework for how it wants to use technology to educate students.
“You have to identify what you want to accomplish, and then identify the technology to help you accomplish those goals,” he said. “You have to understand why you’re investing, and how that fits in the district’s overall approach to how you’re delivering education.”
Members of the Moorestown Education Association (MEA) lobbied vehemently last week that, before it invests in new technology, the district needs to provide support for teachers so they know how to use the technology they already have.
“There’s been a lot of heated discussions about what we truly want, which is training on what we have in our classrooms,” said Roberts Elementary School teacher Bridget Potts during a school board meeting last week. “The infrastructure to support what we have in our classrooms currently, just the simplicity of Wi-Fi throughout our buildings, would be wonderful.”
South Valley Elementary teacher BJ Lemaire described teachers’, and students’, frustrations with computers that take forever to boot up, then freeze or shut down in the middle of lessons.
“These poor kids, we only have them for so long, they get frustrated,” she said.
The teachers petitioned for more information technology (IT) staff, such as a technology coordinator. Though Potts said the IT staff the district currently employs are doing a “phenomenal job,” she added, “We know there are so many avenues we could explore with our students that quite frankly we can’t due to staffing.
“If you guys said today, we can’t purchase any more technology equipment for the next five years, until we make sure we have Wi-Fi, we make sure we have the servers, we make sure we have the staff—I don’t want to speak for the large group—I think the small group in here would say we fully support you on that.”
To a degree, Powell indicated he agreed with the teachers: “It’s hard to argue with the proposition that we have technology X, and everybody should get trained on it so they know how to use it. But the real question is, what’s the set of people who will use it, and what is the specific training that you’re talking about?”
MEA president Lisa Trapani chastised the board, recalling a document the union presented to the BOE back in the fall of 2011, which explained where the teachers stood on technology.
“It clearly outlined and clearly delineated what our concerns were, what our possible solutions and offering to resolve any issues that we had were,” she said. “To date, the board has never come back to us with any responses on those.”
Powell said the technology committee is still working through the technology requests and formulating a broader plan, and indicated the process would be a collaboration with the teachers.
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