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Franklin Regional officials expect leaps in technology use

| Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, 10:12 a.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | for the Murrysville Star Technology in the classroom at Franklin Regional Middle School. Thomas Merante, Michael Manski and Adam Paterson, students in Mrs Crissman's class, are putting together an iMovie commercial about basketball.
Lillian DeDomenic | for the Murrysville Star Technology in the classroom at Franklin Regional Middle School. Grace Reitz, a student in Mrs. Renae Gable's 6th grade math class uses the interactive white board.
Lillian DeDomenic | for the Murrysville Star Technology in the classroom at Franklin Regional Middle School. Charis Wrag, 6th grade math teacher, uses the interactive white board.

Late last year, Franklin Regional officials completed a plan to equip all five district buildings with wireless internet, and now officials have plans to increase the amount of work students do with technology, Superintendent Jamie Piraino said.

“I see Franklin Regional taking big leaps in how students are using technology in the classroom,” Piraino said. “In our elementary classrooms, there will be more opportunities to interact with it and ways to support the learning process and provide students with 21st-century skills.”

Since summer, staff have replaced the Apple computers in a computer lab at the middle school, replaced hardware and software in the portable television studio at the high school and upgraded the district network, said Brad Schrecengost, supervisor of technology. Also, electronic white boards have been installed in 22 classrooms, including two special education rooms.

Schrecengost said the computers used by teachers at the middle school and high school have been replaced by laptops. Fourth- and fifth-grade teachers will transition to laptops later this school year, followed by other elementary teachers next school year.

While Schrecengost estimates that more than 700 student-used laptops at the middle and high schools need to be replaced, he said he hopes that an expansion of the district's bring-your-own-technology program would cut down the number of replacement laptops the district must buy. Currently in place in at least eight high school classrooms, the program enables students to use their sown martphones, tablets and laptops in class.

Schrecengost said several other teachers are interested in allowing student electronics in their classes.

“A lot of teachers want to use BYOD,” Schrecengost said. “We've met with all of the high school teachers and talked about the program and how it works.”

He said more than 800 new devices have logged into the system on a given day. However, most of those devices are smartphones, Schrecengost said. The hope is that students will begin bringing in their laptops, he said, allowing some of the high school laptops to be repurposed for younger grades.

“We will get them technology,” Piraino said of the elementary classrooms. “We want to shift that focus and begin to invest in hardware and technology in the elementary schools. What that source of technology is — whether it is tablet or PC — we don't know yet.”

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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