GP Schools officials talk technology

By: April Lehmbeck | Grosse Pointe Times | Published February 20, 2013

GROSSE POINTES — When it comes to technology, it’s possible that more is better in a highly technical world, as long as it’s used effectively.

That seems to be true for schools these days, as well, with many districts looking at integrating more and more technological resources for their students each year.

Grosse Pointe Schools Superintendent Thomas Harwood gave a presentation to the school board concerning technology at the Feb. 11 board meeting.

He talked about many aspects of student technology use, including the importance of using technology for student research. He also discussed the importance of students learning how to analyze what they’re seeing while doing online research as one component of technology education.

He discussed the importance of technology in student learning at all levels.

“We are at a pivotal point in the school system regarding our technology and a point where we have to make some major decisions in how we move forward to provide an infrastructure and support system for how students will best learn,” Harwood said. “For our students, technology is just part of their existence.

“We have youngsters who have grown up in the digital world and they are entering into our schools and we need to make sure that we provide them with the windows of knowledge and opportunity that exist,” he said. 

At the end of a lengthy presentation, Harwood asked that a steering committee and a teacher taskforce be created. He also said the district needs to look to expert outside consultants to determine what they need with hardware and software.

“If we know where we’re going, we’ll have a better sense and a better-laid plan on how to get there,” Harwood said.

District officials want students to be 21st-century learners so that they are ready for the jobs of the future. They want students to have the skill-set needed for any profession, Harwood said.

The district needs to communicate where it is going with its technology plans, he said.

“We want to look at how we engage and empower students,” Harwood said.

One issue that the district is looking at is the district’s current infrastructure so students and teachers can best utilize the tools available.

“Right now, our infrastructure is old,” Harwood said. “It’s been identified as being old. The bandwidth is not where it should be. Our wireless system is not where it can be.”

When it comes to technology, mobile devices for students would be beneficial.

Instead of carrying heavy textbooks, students can have access to educational information and lessons through a mobile device, he explained.

Harwood discussed Boyne City Public Schools’ innovative use of technology to integrate lessons that incorporate the Common Core Standards, including the use of mobile devices.

The district needs to look ahead at what its future students will be using, he said.

The major stumbling block in initiating any of the plans the district might pursue, if the various groups working on the district’s financial future decide to move forward with upgrading and adding to the technology in the district, would be financial constraints. 

“We may need to take a look at a proposal of a 2013 technology bond, which we (would) take a look at proposing that bond … on the November ballot,” Harwood said.

Several board members had comments about the presentation and upcoming talks on technology.

They wanted to make sure the integration of technology is done so that student learning is measureable and the use of technology is effective.

“I think it’s very important that, as we look for the approach, we think about, will it get integrated into the district so that we can effectively follow the progression, so that we don’t introduce something at third grade and we have nothing at fourth grade to build off of it,” board Trustee Tom Jakubiec said.

Harwood said he felt integrating additional technology would be helpful in making that happen more readily.

Treasurer Brendan Walsh said he knew that there would be much more discussion in the future while they work through the process, and Walsh looks forward to taking part in the discussion. 

He questioned raising the issue of a technology bond at this point in the discussion.

“I’m personally very cautious of entering that dialog with a preordained position around a technology bond,” Walsh said.

Secretary Lois Valente also felt the talk of a bond was premature, but was excited at how the presentation focused on student learning.

“I’m excited to see this,” she said. “I still feel that there’s going to be a little bit of work in front of us.”

Harwood said he introduced the technology bond, after his focus in the presentation on student learning, because that is a question that comes up when discussing these types of issues — how they will be able to finance any changes.

However, he said it wasn’t the focus of his presentation.