SB School Board: One-to One Initiative

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Thursday May 10, 2012

This year, eighth- and ninth- grade students, and students who are transported to and from the islands and Georgia, were issued Windows laptop computers.  The students use these learning tools throughout their courses—for research, creation, communication, collaboration, problem-solving, and data analysis. The district anticipates that these laptops will help foster the educational environment and will boost teaching and learning. Teachers also pointed out the use of the laptops changed the way they approach their jobs. Educators move from student to student, instructing rather than standing in the front of the room.

A presentation about the One-to One Initiative at last Tuesday’s School Board meeting kicked off with a round-up of the program, sprinkled with teachers’ testimony about how the computers opened up an array of new educational possibilities.

One teacher noted her students worked on and completed a humanities project. One plan showcased more than 500 years of the evolution of Africa, using graphics and pictures to help illustrate the continent’s timeline. Another long-time educator called the laptop “a wonderful tool that allows kids to go deep into learning.”

South Burlington High School Principal Patrick Burke also told School Directors that over 100 parents responded to a survey about the program. Responses were subdivided and  about one-third of those answering questions noted they are “more conscious of what their children were learning,” according to Burke.

Another success story of the initiative occurred when some students were allowed to take a portion of the NECAPS, using a computer. In some cases, students scored a “three” or proficient score for the first time in their school career.

South Burlington School District Business Manager John Stewart informed the Board that a committee met weekly to talk about the initiative and what improvements can be made.

After the presentation was over, Board member Martin LaLonde expressed concern about distractions the computer might provide during the school day. He mentioned a discussion he had with a college professor who said that university students who use computers during a lecture are likely to be on Facebook and searching for other things other than what’s covered in the lecture. “I’m concerned about distractions rather than engagement,” he said. “We’re putting that laptop into that home.”

Burke responded that some colleges believe that students foot the bill and must bear responsibility for their choices. At the same time, Burke suggested outreach to parents about laptop usage, and some school officials noted that some families aren’t likely to attend a workshop because of personal struggles. Other district internet technology staffers pointed out that a strict filter might impede learning and that if a teenager sought to visit an unsavory site, he could find a way to do so.

Like LaLonde, School Board member Julie Beatty also had a list of questions about the program and needed more information before she made a decision about whether to support it. She indicated she would forward questions to school district officials.

After hearing from over a dozen South Burlington administrators and educators, the city School Board decided it needed more information on this informational/technology/learning program which the District had embarked upon. The scheme aims to provide a personal learning device for all middle and high school students.

The Board decided to hold a public meeting May 10 (Thursday). The hearing, which is open to the public, is slated to begin at 6 p.m. at the Fredrick Tuttle Middle School.

SOURCE: Gail Callahan, Correspondent