More computer science clases, Wi-Fi availability
By Scott Bellile
The New London School District is setting its technology goals for the next three years.
The 2017-19 Information and Technology Plan outlines the district’s goals for using technology to improve student achievement. The district isn’t required to meet the goals, but it must submit the tech plan to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
Among the district’s objectives:
Up the computer science
The district would also like to develop a K-12 computer science curriculum by 2017.
“That is something that Wisconsin is really starting to push for, that computer science, and we totally agree and are wanting to be right on board with that,” Green told the board.
A district survey of 11th-graders in 2015 revealed more 11th graders were uninterested in learning computer programming than interested: 44 percent versus 30 percent. That changed with age. Nearly half of second- and fifth-graders said they would like to learn programming.
Teach digital citizenship
The district looks to implement a digital citizenship curriculum by 2017 or 2018.
Michele Green, district technology coordinator and author of the tech plan, defined digital citizenship at the June 13 school board meeting as “how to act when you’re online: being a great citizen who is putting worthwhile things out there without endangering yourself in the process.” She said this includes protecting one’s private information and citing sources appropriately.
Wireless internet will continue to be added to areas of buildings where it’s needed. The district will also research how to provide students internet access outside of school.
Green said there are now Wi-Fi systems that the district could buy to provide students off-campus internet access for doing homework. She said the possibilities include installing them on buses for student-athletes or the library checking them out to students who need internet at home.
Seventeen percent of New London eighth-graders and 18 percent of 11th graders surveyed stated they either had a slow internet connection or no connection at home.
Each middle school student will have his or her own Chromebook laptop in the coming years. High school students currently rent Chromebook laptops with the option to purchase upon graduation.
“They really are reporting that they love having those devices,” Green said. “And the No. 1 thing they say is that it’s a lot easier to communicate with the staff in the building.”
The district isn’t ready to give elementary students their own computers, but it would like to buy more portable devices for elementary teachers to use in their classrooms in 2017 or 2018.
To show how youth feel about technology, 90 percent of second-graders said every student should have his or her own Chromebook. Fifty-eight percent of second-graders and 51 percent of fifth-graders surveyed stated they would rather read an e-book than a printed book.
Green reported to the school board technology in New London’s schools has drastically improved since she began her job eight years ago.
“When I first came here, I remember thinking, ‘really, that’s the computer lab I’m walking into [at] an elementary [school]? Like, I hope we can change this,’” Green said. “Within our first tech plan cycle that I was here, that all changed. We really took a leap forward.”
“As a person that went to high school in the 1960s, this stuff is boggling my mind,” board member Chris Martinson said. “I can’t fathom what it’s like to be in class with a device and be able to use it while your teacher is talking.”
Green said the plan also contains goals of continuing to train teachers and administration to use emerging technology.
Board member Bill Schmidt asked Green what she predicts will be the next breakthrough.
“What’s next technology-wise? That’s a really good question,” Green said. “And I think about that because I don’t know. I feel like the next thing is figuring out how to use the devices that are already out. You know, how to use the iPad in a new way, for something completely new. So I think it’s maybe not what new device is coming, but what new ideas are coming and how to use the technology [that exists].”