West Jefferson Hills tech director wrote the book on digital equipment, literally
To get the right answers, ask the right questions.
That's how every purchase of digital equipment should begin, said Suhail Baloch, technology director for West Jefferson Hills School District. Good questions are: How much do I want to spend? How will it be used? Who will use it?
Prospective buyers can make their responses a template, then follow Baloch's Technology Buying Guide for 2013 on the district's website, www.wjhsd.net.
He details tips for choosing computers, gaming consoles, tablets and smartphones and offers suggestions and research links so that purchasers can make more informed decisions. This was a “self-initiated venture to help co-workeers and the community,” he said. Emails from colleagues, asking him for advice, encouraged him to compile the information.
“The point of the guide is not telling someone what to buy, but to make them smart enough to make decisions,” he said. “There are advantages and disadvantages to every choice.”
Baloch, a Shaler resident, has been with the district since 2001.
He and two other district employees oversee and maintain technology systems used by the 2,700 West Jefferson Hills students and 300 staff members. Currently, he's studying the logistics of students bringing their own electronic devices to school.
Dan Como, principal at Pleasant Hills Middle School, said he appreciates the integration of technology throughout the district's curriculum. Students are introduced to technology as early as kindergarten.
“What we do here is in combination with what the children do at home with their tablets, iPads and PCs,” he said. As sixth-graders, “they have more background knowledge than in the past.”
At the middle school, Bob Hasak takes the lead in teaching computer software and applications, while Matt Betler applies technology to industrial arts classes. Mathematics teacher Lindsey Mitko helps other staff members as they increase their use of technology.
“We want our students to be active participants” in using technology, Como said. Classrooms have Smart Boards, which are interactive whiteboards. Through a Grable Foundation grant, the school will have an iPad lab consisting of 30 of those devices and an Apple laptop on a mobile cart.
Baloch's online guide gives specifics, such as “If possible, get hands-on experience with the computer using a local vendor. Then, compare local prices with online prices from computer manufacturers, Amazon.com, etc. Make sure the comparison is made using equivalent equipment, warranty, etc.”
He considers this to be a time of “muddled” technology, when a single device can have multiple purposes such as an Xbox game console with the ability to play DVDs.
“Sometimes, it's not this or that,” he said, suggesting that for entertainment, a tablet computer could satisfy, but for work, a laptop or desktop would be the choice. These days, however, he doesn't recommend desktop computers much.
Consumers upgrade personal equipment in as little as two to three years, for those who love gadgets, or as long as 10 years, he said. Businesses update their electronics every three years while school districts wait about five years to make changes.
“Technology is changing at a phenomenal pace,” said Baloch. “What is current is only as good to you as today. You have to keep up.”
The popularity of gaming is driving computer makers to add more power to their machines, he said. And once power is increased, more complicated games are designed.
Baloch envisions technology transforming as users seek more interpersonal connections via websites such as Facebook and Skype, rather than just typing messages. He hopes for a balance between personal and technical communications.
“Technology is a tool to supplement education,” he said. “It is not an all-in-all in itself.”
Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5803 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Baldwin to test sanitary sewer system
- Police seek Baldwin Hockey Club coach wanted in theft
- Suspension upheld for Brentwood police chief
- Brentwood stadium project officially into overtime