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SCHOOLS: Meeting Today's Teaching Challenge: Aligning Classrooms with Student Technical Savvy

High School Principal Michael Mastrullo introduced the District's new Technology Integration Specialist to School Committee at their Nov. 28 meeting and reviewed what the new position will achieve in coming months and years in the district. The position is a new addition from last year and Mastrullo said it is a position that the District really needs. "Last year the district made a large effort to invest in technology," he said referring to hiring a technical specialist.

Audra Kaplan who was hired to fill the new position, was introduced as an important component in integrating technology into the classroom and keeping the classroom in step with students 'technical knowledge and experiences. Mastrullo said the district has purchased a lot of equipment and relied on qualified teachers to use the equipment as part of the curriculum. He said that model of using technology was "weak" and believed a technology specialist would improve connection between learning and technology. Mastrullo also noted that in the high school accreditation report there was a recommendation on improving the use of technology in classroom learning. Mastrullo added that the new position is not a "luxury" and should not be on the "chopping block" during budget time. "Technology has transformed students' lives," Mastrullo said. "Kids are coming to school with an incredible amount of knowledge."

With those comments, Mastrullo introduced Kaplan who reviewed what she is doing and her plans for the fuure. Kaplan said she is devoting specified times during the week for staff development and spending time with teachers to go over how technology can be used in the classroom. Kaplan said she is currently working on putting classrooms on line. This would include announcements and assignments which would be shown on a screen rather than on a bulletin board. Having assignments on line would also allow students who miss a class to go online and read what they missed.

Kaplan noted that eventually students and teachers would use iPads to undertake projects, discuss ideas, upload movies as part of their study and also lectures. Mastrullo said the use of iPads would allow teachers to interact more with students on different research projects or reports. "It's another tool for teachers to use," he said. "It allows for learning to be expressed in different formats than just a word document." As an example, Kaplan reviewed a movie prepared by students who were researching the cost savings of using halogen light fixtures in the high school gym over conventional bulbs.

Kaplan said she would like to see students use tools like the iPad in classroom work. Mastrullo said there are some questions about how to accomplish this. In some schools, he noted the school district provides the IiPad. In other districts, students bring their own devices to the classroom. School Committee Chair Alison Manugian asked what products would be best suited for these uses: Apple or PC. Mastrullo said such questions would have to be asked to those who manage the computer networks in the schools

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