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Franklin Regional officials to consider $600K in tech upgrades

| Wednesday, May 15, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Franklin Regional officials will vote Monday whether to spend almost $600,000 next year to enable students to learn in “global classrooms.”

But some school board members said they fear continuing to integrate technology will enable teachers to hide behind the new tools.

“We talk about how teachers use technology in the classroom, but the shift is how we prepare the students as they move through our classrooms,” Superintendent Jamie Piraino said. “But we're 13 years into the 21st century. We need to prepare to get our kids to that next level.”

Brad Schrecengost, supervisor of technology, has requested the district complete $587,500 in new projects and upgrades — including a project to make the three elementary buildings wireless — before school resumes in August.

Among the projects he has proposed are adding more interactive whiteboards in English and social studies classrooms at the middle and high schools, upgrading Mac labs at the middle school and converting the district to a virtual-desktop and cloud-storage program. Those projects would help enhance classroom learning, Schrecengost said.

“Our students are more eager when they engage with technology in the classroom,” Schrecengost said.

But at least one board member has reservations about how teachers will use the new technology. Board member Larry Borland questioned how teachers will be judged for effective use of technology. Borland said he worries that teachers will use technology at a level “way lower than appropriate”

“I have a worry about technology hiding someone who doesn't want to teach,” Borland said. “How will teachers be judged if they are effectively and appropriately using technology for the class and age group? How are we assessing that we're getting anything for our money?”

Several checks will be in place, Piraino said. Teachers have told administrators that they want more professional development regarding technology. Piraino said the district plans to offer both small-group programs in which teachers can learn how to best integrate technology and sessions with outside specialists who can explain how to apply technology to real life situations for students. It will require a cultural shift, he said.

The building principals also will watch how technology is — and isn't — being used, Piraino said.

“Teachers can't hide behind technology — good instruction is good instruction,” Piraino said. “Teachers are at varying levels of proficiency when it comes to technology. Our goal is to help them move along the continuum and provide ways and support to grow.”

Other board members support the idea of teachers expanding the use of technology in the classroom. Board member Joe Seymour, whose wife is a teacher, called the implementation “the next step” for teachers. Board member Paul Scheinert agreed.

“The person to tell you how to best use the technology is the teacher,” Scheinert said.

If approved, Schrecengost plans for all projects to be completed during the summer.

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or dkurutz@tribweb.com.

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