Technology initiative begins in Lake Shore

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published May 17, 2017

 The devices are part of a one-to-one initiative the district is moving to as part of its $35 million bond proposal approved by voters in 2016.

The devices are part of a one-to-one initiative the district is moving to as part of its $35 million bond proposal approved by voters in 2016.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — In an effort to make sure that students’ education evolves with the times, Lake Shore Public Schools teachers took the first steps toward getting new technology in the classroom on a regular basis.

Lake Shore will go “one-to-one” with devices for students at Lake Shore High School and Kennedy Middle School in the 2017-18 school year. On May 10, teachers at those schools got their hands on the chosen devices — Chromebooks — so they could prepare to best instruct students. The district decided to purchase Chromebooks for students in those schools because of the amount of word processing that students do at that level and the fact that much work is done on Google Docs and Google Drive, according to Superintendent Joe DiPonio.

In addition, the Chromebooks have touch screens, which he said will fulfill the needs of primary students, as well, when the initiative is expanded to include elementary students.

“It fit our needs most,” he said.

The devices are being paid for with money from a $35 million bond issue approved by voters in May 2016 to pay for security, technology and building upgrades. Of that amount, $10 million was allocated to technological improvements. DiPonio said that, originally, the budgeted cost was $1,000 per student, but because of the falling prices of technology, “we anticipate having enough revenue not only to take care of the purchase of original devices, but also have a plan down the road” to replace the devices when they become obsolete.

Amanda McCarthy, Lake Shore instructional technology coach, said that teachers at the high school and middle school are getting their Chromebooks now so they can be better prepared for when students receive them in the fall.

In addition to having the time to get acclimated to the new technology, teachers will be attending two days of training this summer in Grand Rapids to help them learn new instructional strategies using the devices with their students.

“We’re hoping that as they start evaluating tools that fit their instructional content, they’ll be able to leverage these tools to personalize instruction,” McCarthy said. 

DiPonio said that despite the changes in the world over the past several decades, education hasn’t changed much. Whereas teachers used to be the only ones with educational content in the classroom, he said that now technology can make it much more accessible. 

“If you need answers to basic questions, you don’t need a teacher for that,” he said. “You do need a teacher to train and teach skills that are going to be employable down the road.

“Critical thinking, collaboration, communication — those are really the meat of what you see down the road.”

He said bringing technology into the classroom is about giving students options. While some might read better out of a paper book, some might do so on an iPad or other device. By having the answers at the ready via technology, he said it frees students to spend less time memorizing the answers and more time working to solve a problem.

The move to Chromebooks doesn’t mean other, older pieces of technology are going away. Students will still have access to laptop computers and other devices, and some older technology will be redistributed around the district where it can be best utilized.

McCarthy said Lake Shore is lucky to have teachers who are so open to change.

“We’re fortunate in Lake Shore to have some amazing, growth-minded teachers, so I don’t think it’s going to be an obstacle (to use the Chromebooks in the classroom),” she said. 

After 24 years of teaching, Lake Shore High School business, computer and leadership teacher John Daly said it’s exciting to be trying something completely new and different.

“It gives them more options,” he said. “It’s one or more less obstacles that keeps the kids from learning.”

DiPonio said that while students will still have to take standardized tests, including the ACT and SAT, he thinks that in the future, education will move more toward performance-based assessments and away from memorization.

“You can demonstrate your understanding of your reading by performing that certain task,” he said. “I think we would be doing a better service for our kids by preparing them for what they’re going to face out in the world, which is a little different than a multiple-choice test.”

He said the district was beginning with the rollout of devices at the middle school and high school levels so as not to stretch support resources and work out any issues before expanding to the elementary level.

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