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Tech the Next Step for Regional High Schools

Superintendent Mackey Pendergrast implores board on values technological use would bring to district.

What's the norm in the real world may become the same inside the classroom at the West Morris Regional High School district.

Since Mackey Pendergrast took over as Superintendent March 1 this year, he's consistently banged the drum on taking the next step in the implementation of technology in the classroom. The district has even hired a supervisor of technology this school year to oversee that process. 

"Wi-Fi is the new oxygen. If you can't have everybody on, then it's useless," said Pendergrast Monday evening at the board of education's regular meeting.

That was the general theme of his presentation to the board to bring the latest technology to the district. Pendergrast is lobbying for the use of student-owned technology at the high schools. He added that the use of technology, such as tablets and computers, is becoming the norm and is a prime way to get students to learn.

"It's very critical to know that the way information is organized is intricately involved in the learning of it," he said. "Considering that information is being organized differently today I think that’s an important point. In the end calculus is calculus, I don't know if a cell phone will help you with that but it will because (there's information) on Youtube. But calculus is calculus and Shakespeare is Shakespeare, and writing will forever take deliberate thought and rewriting and editing and rewriting. In the end it's always hard work."

Aside from the assistance technology would provide in the classroom, the board needs to explore all the intricacies of what would be headed the district's way by allowing the full use of devices.

"There are a lot of what ifs that we have to consider," he said. "It is certainly a different type of teaching in some respects. With this device (a tablet) I can click this button and it records, and nobody would know it. We have to set up policy, and that's where the board comes in. How about students that don't have the technology, how do we provide for them? These are all issues that we need to talk about."

Teaching teenagers in core curricula is the main function of the high school district, but preparing students for the next phase of education or the work force is paramount. Pendergrast believes if the district is to steer its pupils in the proper direction, a full implementation of technology is necessary. 

"Our students need to become acclimated to using technology. Certainly colleges are expecting this, the work force is expecting this," the schools top administrator said. "If we keep saying that our job is to prepare these students for the next academic challenge and for life, then this has to be part of the equation."

The administration is actively working on putting proper policies in place to safeguard both students and faculty. Two new policies are expected and revisions with regards to use of social media will be explored. 

Pendergrast said that he will give another presentation at the board meeting on Jan. 7 with an update on the plan's goals.

Bringing home-use technology to the classroom is one approach, Pendergrast said, but there's also the possibility of bringing the classroom home.

"As the fall season has ended, I just would like to acknowledge that education has evolved. The whole world has evolved with data. I think it's important to know that if a parent wants their child to go to an online school, they can do that. They're out there. What we offer here at the high school is something completely different. It's a qualitative experience."

Pendergrast said, in reference to the online courses, that the qualitative experience wouldn't be compromised. "I hear from students constantly how valuable those (extra-curricular) experiences are, in terms of learning so much about life. The courage that you need in other avenues, whether it's in a play or on the athletic field that's important."

Pendergrast also spoke of a technology summit set for March 21. There will be key note speakers and the board is exploring questions and roundtable guests for parents, students and community members, who are encouraged to attend.

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