EASD talks tech with parents

By on July 6, 2016

ER20160615_TechConversationThe future is now at the Ephrata Area School District.

This fall, all fifth and sixth graders will be assigned iPads, while those in seventh through 12th grade will be assigned laptops. The move signals a major step in what the district administration characterizes as a gradual shift in an educational approach away from printed textbooks in favor of electronic versions, which can be continuously updated.

District officials recently unveiled their plans at a community tech discussion in which parents were invited to an open forum where the program was rolled out followed by a question and answer period.

Feedback from the nearly 150 people in attendance was largely favorable.

“Parents came informed and asked very good questions,” said District Community Relations Coordinator Sarah McBee. “There were no responses from the students at the event.”

High school principal Dr. Scott Galen pointed to a huge benefit in the transition.

“The gradual replacement of textbooks with digital resources enables students to use the most current learning materials,” Galen said.

But the benefits to both students and the district alike doesn’t end there.

Traditional printed textbooks have a limited shelf life due to wear and tear and become obsolete in rather short order. Electronic textbooks allow the student to use the very latest and most current version. These textbooks also provide additional resources, such as built-in study guides, additional help resources, on-line help communities and interactive resources, which enhance the educational connection between teacher and student within the classroom or from home.

District Superintendent Dr. Brian Troop expanded on the other benefits of the transition.

“The district has been working toward this additional use of technology,” Troop said. “Part of the gradual progress toward taking this step included classrooms already being equipped with the same software and technology that will be used within the one-to-one environment. In doing so, the only significant change is the amount of devices students will be using. This was done deliberately to help minimize the amount of new elements of their classrooms teachers will need to manage next school year.”

Approximately 2,500 devices will be distributed, and will remain the property of the district.

At the discussion, which was held at the Ephrata Middle School Auditorium, administrators provided more details regarding distribution of the technology, expectations of students’ usage, and safety measures. A question and answer session concluded the event.

District officials said they are taking the necessary steps to ensure success in a variety of ways. Help desks will be available in the media centers and temporary devices will be available when needed.

“Teachers are supported throughout the school year on how to best integrate technology tools within their classrooms,” Troop said. “We have technology leaders designated in each building to offer on-the-spot training and assistance.”

Troop said the district has two technology integration specialists that provide additional live and virtual training, as well as instructional coaching support.

“(Also,) we’ve incorporated lessons learned from other districts to help us deploy and manage technology in these one-to-one environments,” he said.

The district intends to allow students in Grades 7-12 to pick up their devices during the week of Aug. 15, prior to the start of school Monday, Aug. 29. More information on this pick-up will be available to families in the coming weeks.

For full details regarding this new program, the district’s policies and documents outlining students’ use of technology is available at easdpa.org.

Such an investment in technology comes at a cost.

Troop explained how the district was able afford the new program, saying, “Through the reallocation of existing devices and the savings in infrastructure costs, we are able to make this additional investment in instructional technology for the 2016-17 school year.”

Troop said in order to provide each student in grades five through 12 with a personal computing device, the district purchased 650 additional iPads and 650 Dell Latitude laptop computers. He said the costs for those devices totals approximately $510,000. These new devices, combined with the redistributed hardware, will enable students in grades 5-12 to have enhanced and expanded access to their learning environments.

“Students and staff are excited about this next step in our district’s story, aimed at inspiring all students to reach their full potential,” he said.

Troop also emphasized the importance of staying focused on keeping the education of district students current.

“In all parts of life, the ability to personalize information is becoming a requirement,” he said. “Through the use of technology, students will benefit from a more individualized approach to their school experience.”

For additional information on Ephrata Area School District, please visit their website at www.easdpa.org. Gary P. Klinger welcomes your questions and feedback via email at klingerglobal@gmail.com.

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