Pennsylvania School District Moves Forward Methodically with Technology

Schuylkill Valley School District makes sure its investing in the right technology and thinking through decisions carefully.

by Matthew Nojiri, Reading Eagle, Pa. / April 28, 2016 0
A third grader using Google Classroom. flickr/Kevin Jarrett

(TNS) — Ontelaunee Township, Penn. — When it comes to technology, this year marked a big step for the Schuylkill Valley School District.

Over the winter, the district launched its one-to-one program in the ninth grade, giving laptops to students for use during the school day. The high school's television studio also opened this school year, and faculty members are finding new ways to use technology to teach everything from music theory to the stock market to history.

"Having technology access is a great tool for learning," said Patrick Sasse, principal at the high school. "What we're looking for are teacher and student partnerships where they can create and collaborate together. Our staff has been receptive and have been jumping in. That's all you can ask for."

The district on Wednesday hosted its second annual technology showcase. The event featured a tour of classrooms and a panel discussion with teachers and students about where things stand with the technology initiative.

The school district has taken a methodical approach with technology because it's important to do it right the first time, said Dr. Warren F. Mata, superintendent. He said the student and faculty input was one of the most valuable parts of the showcase.

"Each year, this builds on itself," he said of the showcase. "We've intentionally moved slow and steady. With technology, a wrong step is very costly.

"What I don't want to do is invest in a particular direction and then learn we just invested $200,000 in something that is not going to work. We have one chance to do it right, so we have to make sure every step is well thought out."

The program has been years in the making and has required a serious commitment from teachers, administrators, the school board, students and the entire community, said Michael Billman, director of instructional and information technology. A recent fiber optics upgrade has opened up a lot of opportunities, he said.

There are other projects on the horizon, such as upgrading the district's wireless Internet and growing the technology program at the middle and elementary schools. The one-to-one program will also continue to grow with the next class of ninth-graders.

"We're really excited about where this is going," Billman said. "Learning is always at the center."

Kylie Brown, 17, a junior, was among the student panelists during the technology showcase.

She said she has seen the technology transition over the course of her time at Schuylkill Valley. That covers everything from being able to use a personal laptop at school to starting a Google doc to collaborate on a chemistry lab with her peers.

"Having the ability to use personal laptops and things like that, it is much less taboo and very much more accepted," she said. "It gives you a lot more options when it comes to getting schoolwork done."

©2016 the Reading Eagle (Reading, Pa.), distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.