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School's $50k technology program raises questions

November 03, 2010 - Where's the plan? Where's the preparation? Where's the communication?

That's what School Boardmember Jim Weidman wanted to know about a $50,000 technology pilot starting in the second quarter for seventh graders at Waldon Middle School.

Weidman (click for larger version)
He started asking questions about it at the board level back in September after he attended Waldon's curriculum night as a parent and heard about the pilot, which will test out technology-infused curriculum, for the first time.

"I had a few people look to me for answers and I couldn't give them one – I didn't know anything about (the pilot)," he said. Later, he noted that information he got in October indicated the pilot was still in the formative stages and lacked a solid evaluation structure.

"We may not be prepared to move forward on this, based on what I see in this timeline," he said. "As a pilot, it would seem some up-front preparation would have been done to launch it… I haven't heard anything concrete about how it's going to be employed."

Weidman's other concern was that he and other parents felt as though the district was directing families to purchase $279 netbook computers.

But, that's not the case, said Heidi Kast, assistant superintendent of educational services.

"Since then, a letter has gone out stating that we fully understand if it's your wish as a parent to wait to consider purchasing a netbook," said Kast. She noted the district is purchasing 32 netbooks for the pilot and that Waldon has additional netbooks available for students to use, though she couldn't recall the exact number.

Kast also indicated that anything purchased for the pilot would have been bought for the school anyway, except for wireless internet.

"The only thing I've done, is taken what we've purchased and put it in a particular space so I could have teachers specifically pilot some of the things they're asking to use in their curriculum," she said. "We pilot textbooks and we should be piloting technology."

Boardmember Tiffany Weber-Phillips said since the money for the pilot was already budgeted for instructional and curriculum areas, the district might as well use it for a technology pilot before making major technology purchases, should the upcoming bond issue pass.

"I would rather spend it on technology right now than on replacement of books. I would like to get some of this stuff in the classrooms to see what's going to work and what's not," she said.

Weidman remains unconvinced.

"All I'm saying is if we're going to do it, I'd like to see it within the context of a plan. It's apparent… that the plan hasn't been hatched yet – it's an idea, not a plan," he said.

After an informal vote at the board's Oct. 27 regular meeting, the majority of members agreed to keep the pilot moving forward.

Reporter, Lake Orion Review
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