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Technology Plan for Schools Seen as 'Big Leap Forward' in Barrington

Technology director is seeking a 1:1 ratio of computer devices to students so schools can 'stay relevant'; the plan will be presented to the Barrington School Committee next month.

The technology director for Barrington’s schools will ask the School Committee to take what she says is a “big leap forward” in November.

“It’s a leap we need to consider to stay relevant,” said Katie Miller. “Our current numbers don’t support 21st century needs. We can’t achieve the goals we set with what we have.”

Miller is talking about the proposed Barrington Public Schools Technology Plan for 2012-2015. She described it as a plan that is “a work in progress” and very open to feedback from the community, such as the response made last week by a candidate for the School Committee, Paula Dominguez, who does not view it as particularly ambitious. See Patch story.

Miller disagrees because she said the plan she will present to the board next month suggests a 1:1 ratio of computer devices and equipment to students.

“It’s where we ought to be,” she said.

The current ratios in each school range from 11:1 at Primrose Hill to 4:1 at the middle school, according to the plan.  The high school ratio is 5:1. Hampden Meadows is 6:1. Nayatt and Sowams schools have 9:1 ratios.

So, there is a long way to go to come close what is suggested in the proposed technology plan, Miller said, which will require a substantial investment.

Miller declined to put a price tag on the proposal until her presentation. But expect the price tag to far exceed the annual $200,000 or so the district spends on technology each year.

That is not to say the district is starting from scratch. A “robust foundation” for the technology plan does exist, said Miller.

“We have tended to technology over the years,” she said, usually in three-year cycles. But this time, she said: “We need to think differently. We need to look at educating students differently.”

Indeed, she says in the technology plan’s executive summary, the schools’ “readiness to move forward is at an all-time high.”

In short, said the Barrington native, the technology plan builds on this foundation, almost 700 surveys done for the schools’ Strategic Plan, and the 2010 National Education Technology Plan (NETP), she said.

The technology plan, in fact, closely resembles the NETP because of its focus on five essential areas:

  • Learning: Engage and Empower
  • Assessment: Measure What Matters
  • Teaching: Prepare and Connect
  • Infrastructure: Access and Enable
  • Productivity: Redesign and Transform

Maintaining the network already in place and moving forward will require sustained funding and appropriate levels of human capital, the plan says. The network core, located at the middle school, may require migrating it to another location with adequate space and temperature control.

Having sufficient bandwidth down the road also is a concern, the plan states. Without a dramatic increase in bandwidth, the summary says, the district’s ability to expand digital learning will be stifled.

Substantial recent investments in wireless technology have been made in the schools, Miller said. But a dramatic increase in required nodes due to an increase in connected devices would require reevaluation.

Local Mom October 10, 2012 at 12:35 AM
Happening at college level already as the likes of MIT and Harvard test the waters for on-line learning. Coming like a freight train, and the colleges know it but won't talk about it - just trying to collect top dollar while they can. "What does 'go to college' mean, honey? I know, that sounds like a very dated term. Why, back then, you actually had to physcially go to school - sometimes you even left town to go to college across the country - can you believe that?? That's the way it was done before online learning took over. Just like when Mom and I used to go to the office, before we began working out of the house in our bunny slippers. Boy, things have really changed, haven't they?"
Gary Morse October 10, 2012 at 08:54 AM
Try "Calculus in 20 minutes" on YouTube if you are a non believer of on line training http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX_is9LzFSY .
meredyth October 11, 2012 at 01:14 AM
The learning that takes place in K-12, is more than just training--it includes socialization, discourse, relationships, debate, discussion, collaboration, creativity. Brains are growing. children are discovering things about themselves and the world--this is important stuff! Could the district save money by using computers instead of teachers? Maybe, but is online learning the best way to teach kids? I feel strongly that technology is over-rated and not the solution to economic problems in schools. Offering our students Rosetta Stone so they can learn a foreign language in isolation instead of being in a classroom with a teacher having conversations in Spanish, French or Chinese is nonsensical. At some point, the drive to use technology to make eduction cheaper will destroy schools and what is best about them--children together learning from a great teacher with great content. Technology is simply a delivery system. It doesn't replace or represent critical thinking. Let's not be too quick to move away from traditional teaching and learning, from bricks and mortar schools. An emphasis on writing and debate would do more than any amount of computers could ever do. How much technology do we need in the schools before we are basically paying taxes for schooling that could basically be delivered at home?
Gary Morse October 11, 2012 at 11:01 AM
meredyth This issue may be "debate-able", but it is certainly not "nonsensical". There are many students who want the choice to take online courses. What you imply is that only teachers know best. That sounds like a position taken by an educator invested in the current system. The hard sciences are best taught by visualization of the concepts which is best delivered by high quality computer graphics, not reading from a book, looking at chalkboard, or watching a teacher struggle with styrofoam models. Computers deliver visualization of the sciences far better allowing a larger community of students to learn subjects they might never think of taking in a "keep up with the classroom" setting. Computer technology is not "simply a delivery system". It is the perfection of the science of learning a specific thing developed by educators, and delivered en masse by computers. "Critical thinking" is not absent simply because the delivery system is from a different media. The best example of visualization superiority is how YouTube is revolutionizing delivery of instruction material through visualization, not written manuals. Many on-line computer companies are now including with the purchase of products an associated on-line video of how to install the product just purchased. A video is superior simply because there is far more information in the video than can be captured by writing an instruction manual.
Joel Hellmann October 11, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Nothing is a better system than a great classroom teacher. No computer or software program. And nothing is worse than a child getting a sub par teacher. It sets them back years. As long as we have a system that cannot let the sub par teachers go, online systems may be the answer.

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