Falmouth teachers make pitch for technology, iPads

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FALMOUTH — Teachers from the middle and elementary schools came to Monday night’s School Board workshop with a clear message: more technology is a good thing.

A lion’s share of the meeting was spent discussing replacing classroom technology in kindergarten through sixth grade, and in the high school. Technology Director Nate Barns said the current lifespan of the technology is running out, so there was a discussion and presentation from each grade on where they want to go with technology.

Every teacher presenting agreed: More iPads are a must. Specifically, they all wanted one-to-one access for students and iPads. Currently, classes have to share the devices.

Teachers also agreed that technology is becoming both more beneficial and necessary in the schools. Each teacher said online models are often easier to use and less time consuming that hands-on models, and more variables can be introduced.

Third-grade teacher Suzy Palmer said iPads allow students access to more databases and better resources than just the library has to offer, and are better than having students use outdated text books.

“It’s intuitive to them,” Palmer said. “There’s no time wasted on instructing them how to use the tool.”

Other benefits several teachers mentioned included the ability to record students as they read, so the students and their families can hear their progression; iPads are portable and allow students to move about; new technology allows for spontaneity in the classroom, and a balance of new technology with traditional textbooks would prepare students for the combination of skills necessary to thrive in the world.

When asked by School Board members if other computers or tablets might work instead of iPads, most teachers agreed that the apps available on iPads, their students’ familiarity with the Apple operating system, make iPads the favorite.

Barns agreed, saying that any money saved by switching to Android or a different kind of computer would be offset by the time it took faculty to get through the learning curve.

The second topic at the workshop was a discussion on the transition to a proficiency-based diploma, which will be implemented for the Class of 2018. 

High school Principal Greg Palmer said the transition is necessary, and is “based on what students needs to be able to do and know, not on how much time kids spend in a seat.”

Palmer went on to say that every teacher having a different grading system is not beneficial to student learning, and just because the current system has been in place for 40 to 50 years doesn’t mean it should stay.

“If this weren’t mandated, we’d want to do it anyway,” School Board Chairman Andrew Kinley said.

Palmer also said the school will be adopting a “decaying grade” instead of averaged grades. He said this will show the grade which is closest to what a student demonstrated they could do, and doesn’t penalize a student for mistakes.

“Mistakes are how you learn,” Kinley said. “We’ve never done that before in education.”

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.