Northfield Public Schools takes deliberate approach to technology spending - Northfield MN: News

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Northfield Public Schools takes deliberate approach to technology spending

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Posted: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 2:15 pm | Updated: 8:13 pm, Tue Sep 24, 2013.

Technology is like a white elephant gift exchange; as soon as you feel satisfied with your gift, someone else opens an item you want more.

This constant game of chasing the latest and greatest phones, laptops and Kindles can be pricey and frustrating for some, but through wise investments and a deliberate approach, people can save money and avoid purchasing devices that will quickly become obsolete – at least that is what the Northfield School District believes it has found.

Over the past few years SMART Boards – interactive whiteboards with computer-like capabilities – have become popular in schools around the country. But instead of purchasing one for every classroom in the district, school technology committees took a more tailored approach to technology spending.

“All of the elementary schools really wanted SMART Boards but secondary schools didn’t have as many requests for the technology,” said Matt Hillmann, director of administrative services for the district.

In an effort to be consistent across schools and provide all elementary teachers with access to an interactive learning tool, the district purchased a SMART Board for every classroom in the elementary schools. But as students progress academically and their interests and paths diverge, so do the technological needs of their teachers.

As soon as the technology came to the district, the technology committees at the high school and middle school saw a number of requests from math and science teachers who immediately saw utility and potential for this teaching tool. Responding to this enthusiasm, the district provided SMART Boards for teachers who could use the technology in an effective and valuable way – something the math department has fully embraced.

“They are making amazing use of [the SMART Boards],” said Rebecca Messer, a physics teacher at the high school.

But while math teachers are finding lots of ways to incorporate the technology with graphing calculators and geometry lessons and Messer herself frequently uses her SMART Board for vector addition and interactive graphs, she admits that the interactive white board may not be as useful for other teachers in the building.

“It’s so dependent on the curriculum and your teaching style,” said Messer.

With the recent iPad implementation, not only do students have the freedom to use them as much or as little as they like, teachers whose classrooms remain without SMART Boards now have the capabilities to do similar interactive activities, if they so desire.

Using a program called Reflector, the iPad can transfer documents, images or videos to a projector screen in the front of the classroom, creating an effect similar to the SMART Board.

Though Hillmann notes that the iPad and SMART Board are different tools designed for different purposes, the individualized approach to SMART Board installations has been beneficial to students, staff and the technology spending budget.

“I think we will see much more limited installations of SMART Boards moving forward,” said Hillmann.

Reach reporter Erin O’Neill at 645-1115, or follow her on @reporterONeill.

© 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • parentvoice posted at 4:05 pm on Fri, Sep 20, 2013.

    parentvoice Posts: 419

    Peter: Apparently it is easier to launch a pro-PLC ad campaign at open house than it is to actually hold teachers accountable for the work they do (or don't do) while in their PLCs.

  • Peter Millin posted at 9:33 pm on Wed, Sep 18, 2013.

    Peter Millin Posts: 177

    I have noticed as of late that Northfield news is trying hard to put the school district in to a positive light.
    At the last parent/teacher meeting almost all the teachers touted the virtues of the Wednesday morning PLC time. I am smelling an ad campaign.

    Now to Ipads and such. None of the technologies used will do anything to improve the learning for our children. Technology doesn't make you any smarter.

    I have seen this in almost every company I worked for. They spend a huge amount of money on software and computers, thinking that this will improve business performance.
    9 out of 10 times it doesn't happen, because if you dont understand your business a computer/software will not help you with that.

    The over used phrase "garbage in = garbage out" is true in this case as well.It might save some trees and allows for some gimmicky uses in class, but it does nothing to improve the content of what is being taught or not taught..period.

    Just like the PLC did nothing to improve district performance Ipads and electric boards wont do it either.
    it makes some feel better and makes us feel so advanced....but thats not the issue..isn't it?

  • Sparo73 posted at 9:19 pm on Wed, Sep 18, 2013.

    Sparo73 Posts: 1214

    pv - Do you ever have anything good to say?

  • parentvoice posted at 8:21 pm on Wed, Sep 18, 2013.

    parentvoice Posts: 419

    It's not that all Smartboards and ipads are a waste. It's that the district hands them out like candy to every secondary student and every faculty member--and then doesn't hold them accountable to get the training and use the resources they've been given. About 158 teachers went to even one summer training session on ipads (for which they were paid), although there are likely about 300 teachers district wide. That means that half of them are likely unprepared to make use of this expensive, state-of-the-art technology that we taxpayers have generously provided.

    Same with PLC time. Although many teachers use the time effectively, many groups thumb their noses, turning in embarrassing "evidence of practice" reports--and never get called on the carpet. These teachers use the same syllabus (down to the typos!) for decades at a stretch. Tell me again why our kids lose an hour every week of instructional time for these teachers to sit around and waste time?

    And some elementary teachers in elemetary now completely cancel math lessons if the boards aren't working. Really? That does not sound like "excellent" education to me. But god forbid we hurt even one teacher's feelings by confronting him or her....

  • parentvoice posted at 5:51 pm on Wed, Sep 18, 2013.

    parentvoice Posts: 419

    Northfield news--isn't a little one sided for you to run press releases from the school district, but to suppress any criticisms of them?


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