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August 11, 2013

CCS takes a look at technology in the classroom

Cooperstown Crier

---- — Just as with everyday life, technology is gaining a bigger foothold in the classroom.

Jennifer Pindar, Cooperstown Central School social studies teacher, says she uses technology very often in teaching and tries to incorporate more every year.

“Technology is very important in the classroom,” she said “This generation is very tech savvy and we need to change our teaching styles to incorporate technology.”

Pindar said she uses video clips from websites such as YouTube, the History Channel and PBS in her classroom. She said she also creates PowerPoints to teach lessons that are filled with portraits, paintings, maps and more.

“I have links in these PowerPoints that will bring us to a website to research a certain topic,” she explained.

“My students create group presentations using technology. Students create 2-minute video clips as well,” Pindar added.

Technology can be used inappropriately however. According to Pindar, educators need to prepare and show students how to use technology safely.

“Technology plays a huge role in careers and we need to prepare these students for the college level and for the workforce,” she said.

The high school teacher said steps are being taken at CCS through a newly designed course called freshman seminar.

“We started this required class last year and it has been successful,” Pindar said. “We are teaching students how to research properly online and the research process.”

In December, Michael Radlick of Learning Technology Visions, LLC did a walk through of the district’s technology. According to Superintendent C.J. Hebert, Radlick looked at the wiring infrastructure, talked to key individuals about the use of technology and discussed server capabilities. Hebert said Radlick was able to come to some conclusions and give some suggestions as the district plans for technology investments for the future.

“What we wanted to do is get an assessment of the district’s technology infrastructure and usage,” Hebert said.

Radlick presented a survey, taken by staff, students and community members, at the June 12 board of education meeting. The hope was to get an idea of access people have in the different townships within the district, according to Hebert.

“What I had hoped was that we would have received a little more distinctive and discrete information about access-levels in different areas,” Hebert said. “With the number of responses we got, I’m not sure we got a full picture. You can’t force people to take the survey.”

A total of 69 responses (53.9 percent of the overall response rate) was given for the staff survey. The majority of respondents (50.9 percent) said they felt computers technology is very important for them to successfully do their job. The top three most critical technology needs for CCS in the next three years indicated on the survey were more desktop computers, SMART Boards and tablets.

Pindar said she believes iPads and tablets would be great tools in the classroom if used properly.

“We do have computer labs and computers in the Library Media Center,” she said. “However, there are times when it is hard to reserve time because classes are in there. It would be great to have tablets/iPads in the classroom. Very much could be accomplished in the classroom with these technology tools.”

According to Pindar, most students have access to the internet and tech devices, but some do not. Of those who took the web-based survey, about 95 percent have at home access to a computer and about 5 percent do not. More than half the students said they have a computer in their own room. About 77 percent said they had access to high speed internet connection.

“I believe tablets given to all students/classes would be very helpful. This is something that we are actually looking into doing with our incoming ninth grade,” she said.

Hebert said he does not see the school getting all the students computers or other tech devices any time soon. However, he said he foresees the district looking at a “flipped classroom,” where a lot of the lecture materials are made available for student access electronically and then the classroom component becomes a guided-work session with the teacher.

“There are all kinds of resources available, it’s really a matter of organizing them and putting them into an environment that students can access,” he said.

One obstacle in the way is accessibility. Not based on survey results, but from talking with people, Hebert said he has heard that the towns of Hartwick and Pierstown are areas with some connectivity issues.

According to Hebert, even though some might be able to get access, the cost for service may not be feasible. There was no data in the survey that would help determine just how many people this would be true for.

“We are aware that is probably the case in many circumstances, and we would like to look into the possibility of opening up some venues and localities, perhaps like the Hartwick library, where people can go if they don’t have access. As we expand online utilization we want to make sure everybody has access,” Hebert said.

Juli Sharratt said she and fellow town of Hartiwck board member Anita Briggs-Jones are in the preliminary stages of trying to acquire a cell phone/communications tower in Hartwick. Sharratt sent out an email stating calls were made to dozens of companies, but only a couple returned those calls.

“Our population and our terrain are working against us,” said Sharratt in the letter. “But on a much brighter note, Anita and I are in discussions with Clarity Connect who provides land-based high-speed internet.”

The letter goes on to say there was grant money to supply internet service to a fair portion of the Milford Central School District and that Sharratt is hopeful the same can be done with CCS or the town.

Hebert said it is hard to tell if Hartwick is in more need of access to technology than others in different areas of the district based on survey results. The highest number of responses came from community members in the town of Otsego, the second highest from the town of Hartwick.

Pindar said the district accommodates students with access to technology by having a computer lab open twice a week after school until 4 p.m..

“Many student take advantage of this,” she said. “Students can also access computers during study halls and lunch periods.”

Students in grades four through 12 were able to participate in the CCS survey. There were a total of 598 responses — a 86 percent response rate. The majority, 64.9 percent indicated they are an “average” computer user. Six students said they do not use computers and 39 considered themselves to be at an “expert level.”

The survey showed that most students use computers at home. Of the 598 students who participated, 89 said they have a regular cell phone with no internet or texting, 221 said they have a cell phone with texting but no internet, 315 said they own a smartphone, 339 said they have a tablet computer such as an iPad, Kindle or Galaxy and 203 said they have a simple e-reader.

When asked to give an overall grade of A, B, C, D or F of the computer technology in the school, 43 percent gave it a B. The majority of students said they believe computers and technology are very important or important for teaching and learning.

There were a total of 135 responses to the community survey, 49 residing in the village and 86 indicating that they lived outside the village. When asked to give a grade of technology use at the school the majority gave it a C; however, there were 20 “don’t knows.”