*This is the first of two stories on Greenwich Public Schools coping with the district's digital shortcomings. The second installment will appear tomorrow.
Frustration with the district's technology has been growing for some time. In fact, the 2012 Harris Survey reveals a steady decline in satisfaction since the survey was first administered in 2006. On the Greenwich Board of Education's agenda Thursday at Western Middle school is approval of Monitoring Report E-051, Other District Operations, which includes "highlights" from the Harris Survey:
"Computer Technology remains an area of concern across most stakeholder groups; particularly for students and teachers/staff at the secondary level. Since the last administration of the survey in 2010, efforts have been focused on improving the infrastructure for technology across the District and particularly at the high school," states the summary.
After the survey was first offered in 2006, it was also given in 2008, 2010 and most recently in 2012. Based on a rating scale of 1-10 (with 10 being highest), students in Grade 5 rated computer technology at 8.8. However, the sub-groups of students in grades 6-12 and teachers/staff it hit an all time low in this category at 6.9. Both marked a steady decline from 2006 down from 8.3 for grades 6-12 and 7.8 for teachers and staff.
Per the report, the ratings are reflective of "the degree to which (technology) is up to date, meets their needs, and accessibity." Eastern Middle School Principal Ralph Mayo says its not the equipment, but the access that is the source of frustration.
"We have great hardware," he stated explaining that Eastern, for example, has smartboards, 2 Mac labs for students, an additional Mac lab for the teacher use, 2 laptap carts as well as an iPad cart. If it sounds like an ample amount of equipment, think again. These devices need to serve 785 kids plus staff.
At Eastern, innovation is occurring as Mayo revealed that his science teachers have started to use the iPad cart this week in delivery of lab instruction. He has also seen technology transform group instruction through the use of google docs, which allows the teacher to act as a "guide," but the students themselves are leading the charge.
Additionally, Mayo points to professional development on devices and systems as a peice of the puzzle not to be overlooked.
"There hasn’t been a central plan..."
and people have just gone off and worked on this," said Superintendent William McKersie. In fact, the use of different kinds of devices is prevelant thoughout the district and there may not be standards across all schools.
As far as current technology practices at North Street School, Principal Charles Smith states that the there are "document cameras in every classroom, connected to Smartboards, that teachers use to display mentor texts, exemplary student work, and even 3D objects (for instance, during a science experiment). Smith said that use of there cameras "have enabled the teachers to make their lessons much more dynamic, interactive, and engaging."
At Hamilton Avenue School, PTA President Peter Bernstein describes that "on the equipment side, Hamilton Avenue is lucky to have access to a relatively new computer lab, classrooms with computers and a cart of laptops makes the rounds through the school."
"However, like the district," he explains, "usage has grown organically at Hamilton Avenue without a centralized implementation plan." For instance, "One of our enterprising second-grade teachers received a grant for iPads for her classroom. There are other iPads available for teachers to use whether for planning or teaching, but not enough for an entire class."
Parents Play A Pivotal Role
Per the 2012 Harris Report, parents also have expressed a decline in satisfaction with the district's computer technology ranked at 8.0 in 2006 to a low of 7.6 in 2012. "Parents need to be involved in the digital transformation and play as important a role as teachers and students," said Bernstein. "The same night of the BOE’s work session on technology, Ham Ave held a well-attended Tech Night for parents. The idea was to give parents hands on experience with the equipment and programs used by students," described Bernstein.
"Parents are curious about what goes on in school and certainly what their kids are doing on computers," Bernstein concluded.