No doubt, this was the hot topic of the week. More than 40 comments have come in on two articles, and a number of readers are voting in the local poll dealing with this hot-button issue. The clamor, pretty much is over who is going to pay for these laptop computers. Obviously, tax weary residents are tired of shelling out dollars and think the burden should shift to the parents of students. Check out these recent articles.
The Ladue School Board met this week with the majority of the meeting time devoted to the 21st Century Learning Initiative, which has been discussed at length beginning in May, 2011.
Rob Highfill, who serves as Ladue School District's Director of Information Technology Services proposed that the school district provide each student at Ladue High School a laptop computer to better integrate technology into student education. Other devices were considered throughout the process, however, Macbook Air laptops are the hardware of choice at this time.
Highfill stated that the proposed one-to-one technology initiative will make technology available to every student, which will provide the same opportunity and access to technology to all students. Because the school-issued laptop computers will go home with every student every night, students will have access to technology without current limitations and time constraints.
To help illustrate Highfill’s beliefs on the need for the one-to-one initiative, Adam Stirrat presented his views as the gatekeeper of school technology, Shruti Upadhyay, Ladue High School English Teacher presented her experiences from a teacher’s standpoint and Mark Shevitz presented his thoughts from a parental viewpoint.
Stirrat stated that during the 2011-2012 school year, state assessments which measure student proficiency were given in an online format only. Because of the number of students verses the number of computers available, the computer lab was shut down and reserved for testing for nearly four weeks. During that time, students were not able to gain access to technology for classroom work, research and projects and teachers were limited in the way they were able to integrate technology into their lesson plans.
“Teachers come to me with really amazing ideas and I have to turn them away because of limited equipment,” said Stirrat.
Upadhyay presented a student-produced biographical poem which the student was asked to integrate words and technology using visuals and sound. The final project, a video, was used to illustrate how more access to technology can offer students more learning opportunities. Another project incorporated a non-fiction book, sound, video and You Tube. This project attempted to teach the students about the world in which they live and to break down stereotypes while understanding the importance of words.
“The students had to start and finish on the same computer. This was not a project the students could do at home. There were eight classes on the same computers in the lab. There were setbacks with the limited technology and other students using the computers in the school computer lab,” said Upadhyay. Her enthusiasm about the use of technology and how it enhanced her ability to teach her students was evident.
Shevitz, owner of SJI, Inc., added about Ladue High School students, “These kids need to know how to use technology, because they will need to know how to use it professionally. We have interns that have to know how to use computers and technology or we don’t bring them on board. It is the world in which we live.” Shevitz owns a marketing company.
Although there were no hard figures presented, after balancing cost verses savings, Highfill suggested the cost of the initial hardware is about $250,000. Additional costs will be incurred for necessary staff training and for repair to the hardware that is inevitable. A proposed insurance fee paid for by parents could offset the cost of repairs.
Highfill said the best opportunity to implement the technology plan is in the 2016-2017 school year. It is possible for it to happen sooner with additional costs involved in breaking current computer leases. If the district waits until 2016-17 the current computer equipment leases will be up at that time. In the interim, current equipment will not be upgraded to help offset the cost of purchasing the laptops.
The board expressed mixed views about the 21st Century Technology Initiative. None were completely against it. And after much discussion, the consensus was that more information was needed to make an educated decision.
Some board members voiced concern for community reactions to spending funds on computers for every student in light of the recent tax levy passing and the budget cuts deemed necessary at that time.
Highfill stated that, “the plan for the one-to-one initiative was already in place before the tax levy was presented and passed. The committee does not plan to use Prop 1 funds (for the purchase of the laptop computers.)
Some Board members suggested that using funds in the budget to help offset the cost may inadvertently come from Prop 1 funds.
Other business discussed was the preliminary budget for 2012-2013 school year, early separation incentive recommendations, the high school focus group report and policy changes.