Cape schools' tech initiative could be 'paradigm shift,' assistant superintendent says

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Cape Girardeau School District committee that intends to develop a plan for integrating more technology into classrooms got a first look Monday night at an initiative that would provide portable personal computers for students to use in school and at home.

Sherry Copeland, assistant superintendent of the district, and Garett Dugan, an information systems specialist in the district's technology department, presented details of a "1:1" initiative, which the district is considering, and an online course management system that is now available for teachers and students.

A 1:1 initiative would cause a "complete paradigm shift" in classroom instruction, according to Copeland, because it would allow "differentiated instruction" -- instruction tailored to meet certain students' needs -- more quickly and more often.

The meeting was the first for the committee, which consists of administrators, teachers, school board members and community members. The committee designated subgroups to look at several aspects of a 1:1 initiative during the meeting. Groups will focus on barriers, instruction, research, schools that have implemented 1:1 initiatives, professional development, funding/costs and grants.

Copeland said that before a 1:1 initiative can be implemented, teaching staff first needs to be able to use Moodle, a course management system the district is shifting to. The district will offer professional development training on the system this summer, and around 85 staff members have signed up to participate so far. The system is designed for K-12 schools.

Teachers on the committee already using a course management system called OIS, used in online courses at Southeast Missouri State University, say it has been used successfully in their classrooms, but question what other ways technology will be incorporated into schools if the district implements a 1:1 initiative.

To make the best use of technology in Cape Girardeau schools, teachers will need extensive training on how to use it while teaching students, said Amber Prasanphanich, who teaches business and computer applications at the district's alternative school.

"There's things we could be doing that we aren't doing because we aren't trained," she said.

She said teachers also need to be able to show students how to use technology creatively in classroom activities and have access in all classrooms to devices like smartboards.

Copeland said answering questions from staff about the methods and goals of incorporating more technology is another purpose of the committee. The subgroups will meet and study their aspects individually before coming back together as a large group about once a month.

The way a 1:1 initiative would look in Cape Girardeau schools in the beginning would likely follow how many other schools have used one: Students would be assigned laptops and use Moodle as a method of communication and interaction with teachers in some, but not all, classes. Laptops could be taken home, and students without Internet access could download lessons or assignments to their computer while at school, work on those at home and then submit it to an online dropbox the next day. The idea, Copeland said, is that students could have "anywhere, anytime" access to learning.

Proponents of 1:1 programs say children need to be able to use a "learn by doing" approach in school using technology because that is how they best engage in learning.

Copeland said an initiative would also allow for "constant progress monitoring," which teachers need to do to make sure all students are learning the material that is being taught and that the state can use to conduct local assessments. The state assesses student performance as a part of the fifth cycle of the Missouri School Improvement Program, which measures schools' progress toward state-set accountability standards.

Cost associated with a 1:1 program can vary widely, depending on the level of implementation and the equipment.

Use of Moodle will begin in August, and the district will evaluate the use of the system as the school year progresses. The initiative to provide laptops to all students would take longer to implement, Copeland said, because of issues such as how to fund one and the time involved training teachers and students.

The committee's next meeting as a full group is at 5 p.m. July 12 at the central district offices. Meetings are open to the public.


Pertinent address:

301 N. Clark Ave., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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