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What The Future Holds

Tech task force committee presents findings  

Garden City schools, like countless others, have been on the information superhighway for quite some time. Now the question becomes, how best to travel that highway in the years to come?

Last spring, the board of education asked for volunteers to form a technology task force committee to ‘identify trends in technology and determine their potential impact’ on schools. A few dozen faculty, students, and community members banded together, and the committee presented their report to the board at a public work session that was held on Tuesday, Jan. 7, at the middle school.

“[This update] gives the board a sense of where we want to go, what the [technology] field is doing...and some possible road maps on how we’re going to get there,” said district superintendent Dr. Robert Feirsen.

The task force was divided up into three subcommittees: Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), which focused on social media and how students will use new technology; Digital Content, which examined the role of teachers in selecting classroom management platforms, and Technical Advisory, which dealt with technology infrastructure on the district level.

Social media and smart devices can be powerful tools in the hands of students, and not necessarily in a positive way.

High school librarian Margaux Calemmo brought forth the recommendations of the BYOD committee, which would include the registration of all personally owned devices with the district. Students would be permitted to the school’s secured wireless network only, with no access to a private 4G network, for example. This would ensure that only district approved websites could be accessed. The committee did recommend that BYOD privileges be extended to grades 5-12, but that social media sites are to be used for educational purposes only. Twitter, Google Drive and YouTube are the free sites the committee suggests.

High school science teacher Michael Stano was among those from the Digital Content committee on hand. His group has recommended Edmodo.com as the district-wide classroom management platform.

“Students often say, I don’t know what the homework is, I didn’t see it on the board, the website wasn’t working... I could give you a thousand excuses,” Stano said. “Edmodo takes all those excuses away.”

Stano did say that more staff development is needed as new technology is put in place. He would like to see a full-time technology integration staff developer brought on board to assist teachers in implementing technology. Also, a potential collaboration with Adelphi University’s school of education would allow college students to ‘teach the teachers’ about technology in the classroom.

No technology advancement is possible without the backbone of a functioning network infrastructure. All cabling installation of wireless access points has been completed, and the BYOD will slowly be rolled out over the next couple years. The Technology task force says the current technical support system is inefficient in that highly technical, along with basic tasks, are handled by the same staff. They would like to see technology aides hired for each school, along with the creation of a ‘GC Tech Squad’, which will be made up of high school tech savvy students who can help device users with any problem.

Of course, there’s always the question of money. The district-wide tech budget has not changed for several years and the task force as a whole says an increase is necessary. Expenditures on new laptops/tablets, staff development and wireless licensing would increase the budget over the next few years.

The school board was in agreement that there’s no slowing down technology, but that they would have to decide which expenditures are needed and which are not.

Dr. Feirsen says technology will not fully replace traditional instruction or staff-created content, and that costs, along with monitoring of student online activity, are issues the board will be mulling over as they review the task force findings.

However, it should be clear, according to board trustee Tom Pinou, that his board is in fact on-board, online, onward into the future.

“Information is power, if we can deliver it the right way to our students,” Pinou said. “If we can give that technology edge to our students, that will have a monumental effect on us all.”