Why Must We Increase Student Access to Technology?

Increasingly, our students and school are assessed based on the ability to demonstrate 21st Century Skills.  Our state testing: ISTEP+, I-Read3, and WIDA will all be online assessments going forward.  Our school/diocesan accreditation standards base our rating on how and to what extent students are utilizing technology in the classrooms to create.  Over the course of the last two years, we have spent much time building the capacity of our teachers to use technology and effectively present classroom instruction through technology, and then increasing the use of technology in their classrooms. Our teachers have worked extremely hard to learn and implement these new tools and methods into their instruction.

Over the past two years, I have heard from parents concerned that their children might not be ready to move on to high school, based on our past level of technology integration, and they were seriously considering pulling their children due to a lack of technology access. On the other hand,  I have also heard from parents that are not great fans of technology.  Admittedly, our school has been successful turning out students that have gone on to be at the top of their classes without technology.  Point stipulated, but the measures used to gauge our school and students have and will continue to change.  We will no longer be permitted to administer paper and pencil state assessments, except to those students with an IEP or testing accommodation that require it.  Our students must be comfortable using technology to demonstrate their understanding. This means frequent use of technology in daily instruction is vitally important.  Regardless of how we feel about technology in the classroom, we cannot simply put the students in front of a computer on test day and expect an accurate assessment of what they know. These tools must be familiar, and they must be taught to use them for learning.

Teachers and students alike will continue to be taught new skills using technology. In the process, their comfort and competency utilizing technology will grow.  We do not have plans to eliminate our traditional textbooks or our time-proven tried and true teaching methods, but we must include technology in the educational process where it is appropriate and where doing so can serve to enhance instruction. 

We are an A-rated school, but to maintain that status under the new assessments, we must adapt.  Change is hard, but together, we will maneuver the future responsibly, successfully and in balance with the traditional methods we have always used at St. Joe.

Finally, to clarify and address a concern raised: Student access to the Chromebooks will vary on a per classroom/per teacher basis. Only when the classroom teacher is comfortable with using the technology for assessments and activities outside the classroom, will they be sent home.  Our students are excited to see this happen as soon as possible, but we are still drafting policies and working with our tech providers on insuring damages to and repairing devices. Only when these things are ironed out, policies finalized and approved, and more parental information shared, will students have the opportunity to take the devices home.

Students do not have to take the devices home, but in some grades and classrooms, it may/will be an option, once computer or internet based homework projects are given. The internet use while on the Chromebooks at school is filtered through our Barracuda web filters, and at home, while on the Chromebooks, their usage will be filtered and monitored via "Secure.ly". However, the best filtering/monitoring is done by parents. Limiting access via home internet filters, and not allowing devices to be used unsupervised, are just a few suggestions.

Jeffrey D. Kieffer, Principal