The goal is to be the most effective school district in the country.
And to get there, Superintendent Mackey Pendergrast said, means a major shift in technology and focusing on its uses.
Pendergrast gave a 20-minute presentation to the West Morris Regional Board of Education Monday night on the topic of technology and its meteoric evolution, and how it’s changing the style in which students learn.
The presentation began with the airing of a commercial for the Samsung 10.1 S-Note, a tablet computer with a multitude of capabilities that can be utilized in the classroom.
“Back in March, I said this district was poised for progress,” Pendergrast said. “We’re preparing students for the next academic challenge, and for life.”
The district is planning on implementing B.Y.O.D.–Bring Your Own Device–so students can use their electronics for use and learning in the classroom. Pendergrast cited a statistic showing 70 million tablet computers will be in consumer’s hands by the end of 2012.
“There’s so much accessibility taking place,” he said. “And as time goes on and these products stay on the market, their prices will decrease but keep the same capabilities. These will be accessible, and for not a lot of money.”
Pendergrast said tablet computers on the market could be purchased for anywhere between $200 and $500 currently. He then held up a World History textbook, approximately two inches thick, and said it costs the school $200 for that one publication.
More than hardware
Along with the move to using technology in the classroom, an entire infrastructure needs to be in place to support the work.
During his report to the board as chairman for the policy committee, David Lobron explained there is work to be done in the district.
“During our meeting with (Hartmann), I learned how far behind we are in technology compared to other districts in the state,” Lobron said. “We have teachers contacting parents from their own email accounts because they can’t access the school’s after hours, which is policy violation.”
While the schools are moving quickly to catch up, Lobron said, the district is light years ahead of where it was when he was an administrator at West Morris Central.
“We use to confiscate electronic devices and make the parents come in and get them,” Lobron said. “Now students will be using them throughout the day. It changes so rapidly.”
While the progression is being analyzed and instructed by the administration and board of education, parents of students in the district wanted to weigh in as well.
“All this change,” Leslie Mule of Washington Township said, “has me thinking kids will be at home ‘going’ to school from their computers in a couple of years.”
Carol Brady of Mendham wondered how educators will be able to control the changing force.
“How do you stop cheating or other improprieties?” she asked Pendergrast.
“We’re working on it,” the superintendent said. “This is a disruptive force. It’s not a wave, it’s a tsunami. You can control a wave; a tsunami just takes over. But I think it’s exciting.”