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Facing a new era

CCSD is revising its technology education plan to determine the circumstance of how they will embrace or exclude certain platforms or devices within their educational process.


by: KEVIN SPERL - Text messaging is just one of the many new forms of communication available with recent technological upgrades.

Editor’s note: Part one of this four-part series will provide a general overview of technology local students are exposed to

The website Wikipedia defines social media as “the interaction among people in which they create, share or exchange information and ideas.”

That same site defines education as “a form of learning in which the knowledge, skills, and habits of a group of people are transferred from one generation to the next.”

Sound similar?

According to Crook County School District Assistant Technology Manager Lance Queen, the district’s technology plan is an attempt to develop consistent policy across all grade levels.

“We need to formalize how we interact with technology, whether it is within the technology department, with district staff, or with the students,” he said. “We don’t have anything right now that is an actionable plan. We are, sort of, at this point, doing it ad hoc.”

To many, technology simply means computers. Love them or hate them, computers are here to stay and advancing at a rate that is difficult for many of us to manage.

Daily life is barraged with the presence of laptops, tablets, e-readers and smart phones. Access to information is instantaneous, with many world events played out in “real time.” Information content is shrinking to smaller and smaller tidbits due to our inability to absorb the sheer mass of information available.

“Life in 140 characters” — the maximum for a Twitter tweet — is becoming the norm.

These are some of the challenges faced by school administrators, and, for now, Crook County is proceeding with caution.

Queen explained that most social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter, are simply blocked by the district’s internet filters.

“Honestly, the reasons we block them in the district is because of a low comfort level with them,” he said. “The administration is not yet familiar enough with how they work and are concerned with bullying issues and the distractions they may cause.”

Recent educational reports concerning graduation rates and kindergarten readiness have alternately blamed, and lauded, technology for hindering, or advancing, the educational process.

Dave Robinson, principal at Ochoco Elementary and a member of the P-3 school readiness committee in Crook County, recently spoke about the $75,000 grant awarded to the school district to address issues in school readiness, and is concerned about technology in the hands of pre-school children.

Robinson noted that significant time spent in front of the television, or playing video games, does little to promote readiness skills, but merely reinforces one-way communication, in which the child becomes a passive participant.

“It is getting harder for kids to enter the structured environment of public school when they are not used to it,” said Robinson. “We need to get them to appropriate levels of socialization, play and interactive languages as early as possible.”

It makes it sound like “social” media is creating “anti-social” behavior.

The University of Phoenix College of Education surveyed more than 1,000 teachers and found that 47 percent of them felt that participation in social media platforms could enhance their students' education.

But, according to the survey, teachers often opted to use YouTube videos, podcasts, or other types of technology, such as laptops, interactive white boards or tablets, instead of social media tools.

Kathy Cook, the university's director of educational technology, said that teachers might be more comfortable using social media in the classroom, if there was more comprehensive training available in its use.

“It's important for teachers to stay on top of different technological developments in the education world, and build professional networks to share best practices,” she said, adding that social media does make it difficult to maintain an appropriate relationship between teachers and students.

According to the Pew Research Institute, social media has become synonymous with Facebook, with almost 1.5 billion people, worldwide, spending, on average, 15 hours per month on the site.

Smart phone use is even more prevalent — 90 percent of American adults have a cell phone and 58 percent own a smartphone, and they depend on them for remaining connected to their circle of friends.

In fact, 29 percent describe their cell phone as “something they can’t imagine living without.”

Faced with those overwhelming numbers, the local school district does not allow phones to be used during the school day.

“Rules state that there is no smart phone use during the school day,” said Queen. “They still have them in the high school, but at the elementary and middle school level, the rule is no cell phones.”

Although Queen stated that social media and smart phone use has not yet emerged as a viable component of the district’s curriculum, technology is alive and well.

Every Crook County middle school student has a Google Chrome book, as part of the district’s one-to-one program.

“Students take them to all of their classes,” said Queen, explaining that the program originated as a grant from Google.

Queen also said that Chrome books are being introduced to the elementary schools as well.

“We are bringing them in 30 to 50 laptops at a time,” he said. “This ongoing program is something else we are incorporating into the technology and curriculum plan.”

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