New Hampshire School Administrators and Teachers Embrace New Technologies
It seems like only a year or two ago that my school board engaged in heated discussions about banning cell phones, iPods and other electronic gizmos from school. We talked for hours about cyberbullying and cheating versus the needs of parents to arrange for rides to sports and activities, emergency uses and more. We tried to establish limits: use in cafeterias or buses only, or limiting the hours of use to before or after school. We had the superintendent bring us policies and we wrangled on into the night and from meeting to meeting. Finally, we made a decision to table the discussion because it was becoming too far-reaching and no consensus would be reached. Parallel to these deliberations ran discussions on blocking students’ access to websites like YouTube, Facebook and others that might distract from the learning environment.
Flash forward one year (an eternity in the technology world) and all of those discussions were moot. Now we see districts embracing tools that were once banned and thought of as simply entertainment. Superintendents are blogging, homework assignments can be found on teachers’ Facebook or school sponsored pages. In fact, federal stimulus fund grants are available for schools to purchase iPod Touches to provide to students. Some districts are contemplating putting their textbook and supply dollars into hardware and devices like e-readers (Kindle, Sony and Nook) that can be updated with information rather than texts that become dated quickly.
Technologies and sites like YouTube make everything immediately available, from a speech made by the President the night before to a visit to an African village where a malaria control project is underway. Similarly, podcasts offer great information and often for free. Teachers are no longer limited to what videos, DVDs or books are in the supply closet. And to think I used to get excited on a day we had a filmstrip!
A recent Associated Press story explained how a Spanish teacher in Florida uses text messaging to students’ cell phones in her lessons. She reasons schools can’t afford a computer for every student, but it seems every high-school student has a cell phone, and the technological capabilities of today’s phones are probably greater than what it used to take a room full of employees in white lab coats and pocket protectors to do.
Here in New Hampshire, the New Hampshire School Administrators Association has promoted technology regularly through such venues as their annual Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference. Recent workshops included: Integrating Your iPod Touch into the Classroom; Digital Photography and Beyond Googling: Applying Google Tools to Teaching and Learning.
If you are a decision maker, don’t be afraid. Use the tools that kids embrace. With the speed that technology is changing, it is no longer hard to imagine a classroom where teachers say “kids, take out your iPods, open your test app and, when you’re finished, post it to my account.”
Jon Steiner is a former member of the Kearsarge (SAU 65) School Board, representing the Town of Bradford. He can be reached by phone at 800.852.3358 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.