Exeter students educated through technology

Exeter Township School District is conducting a trail study that may result in providing each student a with a laptop.

At the high school level, a focus group has been formed to determine if Exeter students would benefit from having a strong implementation of technology both in the classroom and at home.

Supervisor of Information Technology Joseph Way and Instructional Technology Specialist Dan Wilchek reported their findings to the school board at the Jan. 23 meeting (postponed from Jan. 21 due to snow).

“It’s important that we, as a district, have our goals and guiding principals while moving forward,” Way said.

The two technology representatives spoke highly of how students in the focus groups have responded with the laptops in the classroom. The district has been using My Big Campus as their online network. The program is offered to the district for free and has shown great results for success.

“We’ve seen a ton of collaborations,” Wilchek said. The advisors have seen a positive reaction from both teachers and students . “If students are absent, they can do the work at home.” With Google Docs, “30 students can be in a single document at once.” This allows the students to work together and collaborate in an online forum, where they can build and share content.

Students have already been actively using the next work and have produced over 15,000 posts on the school network. Google Apps for Education, a web based cloud of email, calendar and documents, is another benefit for the school community.

“20,000 new files in Google Docs in two or three months,” Way said. “And over 1,000 collaborating documents, where three people are sharing a document together.”

Technology is being utilized in classrooms throughout the district. Around 100 laptops have replaced older models at the junior high while elementary teachers, ESL and Special education classrooms are using iPads. For the district’s K - 6 buildings, libraries will be freshly stocked with Kindle e-readers.

The online network is managed entirely by the school district. “We are providing filtered machines, they will go home with our district filter,” Way said. “I think our filtering policy...is very fair. We loosen and open up sites as requested.”

Wilchek has been working with the high school teachers to see how the implementation is going to work.

“The saying is ‘we make them ‘turn-off’ --- we set them back to a learning style that they’re not accustomed to or not wired to,” Wilchek said.

Eventually the district would like to provide one laptop per student for their use, both at school and at home.

“If one kid can’t get on, it holds back the entire class,” Wilchek said.

Insurance for the laptops would be provided by either the school or the student, which is yet to be determined. Way stated that the school had a quote of $600 per laptop, a 30-year total accidental for $149 or the one-year cost is $99. One option could result in the student being able to keep the laptop when they graduate.

Currently at the high school, there are 16 laptop carts, three general computer labs, six computer classrooms, and two half labs for the library and music. For now, the school’s technology representatives are working on the focus group and determining their options with how to proceed in the future.

A one to one ratio of laptop per student will engage and impact the students’ motivation, provide “anywhere, anytime” learning and give students the chance to be “equal players in a new school ethos.”

About the Author

Emily Thiel

Emily Thiel is the editor of The Southern Berks News and is the Community Engagement Editor for Berks-Mont Newspapers. Emily joined Berks-Mont in March 2013. She graduated from Kutztown University in 2011 with a degree in English with a concentration in Cultural and Media Studies. Emily is a native of Allentown, Pa. Reach the author at ethiel@berksmontnews.com or follow Emily on Twitter: @sthrnberksnews.