Old - DO NOT USE - The Coast News Rancho Santa Fe Lead Story

School Board opts to increase technology in classrooms

RANCHO SANTA FE — The Rancho Santa Fe School Board met at a special meeting last week to determine the best way to stay abreast of changes in technology their students are already using away from school and how to integrate it into the classroom. 

In the end, the board instructed staff to continue investigating a rollout plan of putting iPads into the hands of students, starting with the middle school and gradually continuing to the rest of the students. An official go-ahead is expected at a future board meeting.

At a cost of about $304,500, the initial plan would be to provide one device to each child in middle school who would have continued access to desktops and laptops in each classroom. Each teacher at the school would receive an iPad and there would be 10 devices given for special education.

For the 2012-2013 school year, six devices would also be issued per classroom for a total 410 iPads. The roll-out would continue year by year, until every student has his or her own device. The older students would carry their devices back and forth to school, but their devices would have the built-in browsers disabled, so the students would use safe browsers off-site. They would be behind the district’s wall while at school and all student activity would be subject to board policy for acceptable use of electronic resources.

“I like the idea of better control,” said Lindy Delaney, superintendent of schools. “It’s about control and keeping our kids safe.”

The devices would be owned by the school, which would have control over the applications.

“If we put something into the hands of kids, it has to be valuable and educational,” said Cindy Schaub, assistant superintendent, who gave the presentation at the meeting.

There is already an apps store available at the San Diego County Office of Education, said Greg Ottinger, a consultant from the office and a guest at the April 25 meeting.

Buying the devices does not end the need to stay in touch with changes in technology, according to Schaub.

“We will never be finished as far as technology goes,” she said.

Gone are the days when a teacher stands before a class bestowing information.

“Teachers will not be replaced. Teachers will never be replaced,” Schaub said.

“The role of the teacher will change dramatically to a role of a facilitator who will guide the child along. The speed of change is actually accelerating,” said Todd Frank, a school board member.

The pitfalls of integrating technology with traditional teaching are instituting it too quickly, not providing training for teachers and not providing enough personnel and energy to the project, Schaub said.

The plan is “evolution and revolution,” Delaney said.

It is hoped the iPads can be put in the hands of teachers before the summer break so they can get training and be comfortable with the devices when school begins in the fall.

“We want to hit the ground running this summer,” Delaney said.

A recent survey of parents determined that 90 percent of them believe that using a mobile device would enhance learning, Schaub said.

The money to pay for the devices would come from funds specially designated to purchase educational items, Delaney said.

Schaub and Ben Holbert, director of technology, spent six months studying the issue and then making the recommendations.

“The school day is not just from 8 a.m. to 3 (p.m.),” she said.

“The walls of the world are torn down,” said Schaub. “The walls of distance are gone.”