NJ Panel Grapples with Education Technology Issues
More efforts are needed to promote professional development and garner the support of decision-makers to help schools implement advances in technology, said panelists at a New Jersey technology conference.
Hosted by Optimum Lightpath, a division of Cablevision Systems Corporation, the New Strategies to Transform Schools & Classrooms conference brought together more than a hundred educators, administrative leaders and technology specialists.
“The world and the workforce are changing rapidly and our students need to keep up,” said keynote speaker Gene Longo, manager of Learning and Development at Cisco Systems, Inc.
Longo gave a video presentation of “A Day in the Life of a 21st Century Student,” starring a hypothetical high school student, Sally. Using a laptop, smart phone and other electronic devices, Sally communicates with her classmates and completes a research project on water quality. The video demonstrated the ways digital technology can be integrated into a student’s academic and social life.
A panel of technology experts and educators discussed the benefits of using new technology in the classroom and the challenges of implementing change.
“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink,” said David Ullman, CIO at New Jersey Institute of Technology. “We need to demonstrate the value of technology to teachers.”
Parents tracking their children’s grades online and a quicker means of identifying students who are struggling were some of the benefits technology can offer, Ullman said.
“Professional development is the backbone of changing the use of technology,” said Susan Sullivan, educational technology specialist at the New Jersey Department of Education. “The tools are out there and we need to help teachers learn how to empower themselves by using them.”
The problem is many tools, such as interactive whiteboards, are expensive, said Ed Hayward, director of technology at Bergen County Vocational Schools Department of Education.
“We get a lot of requests for bells and whistles from teachers. But we have to go back to professional development because without that, all these fancy tools aren’t useful,” Hayward said.
An area where advances in technology are being successfully implemented is in “virtual field trips,” said Cathy Timpone, director of Curriculum and Technology at Park Ridge Public Schools.
“Video conferencing is a great way to connect with classrooms around the world,” said Timpone. “One of our middle schools used it to connect with a class in Japan. You could see how excited the students were to speak with students on the other side of the globe. Parents were crowding into the room just to watch.”
During the conference, Optimum Lightpath also awarded $100k in grants across 10 New Jersey elementary and high schools. The grant recipients were chosen based on how the funds would be used to create new initiatives and improve the overall education experience. Some of the programs that will be funded by the grants include distance learning, virtual field trips, remote access to cutting edge applications from the home, creation of a live-stream television studio run by students and advanced connection to the nature and practice of science. #