Brandywine Heights Superintendent addresses concerns about tablets

A parent expressed concern about no filter protection on tablets during the Feb. 10 Brandywine Heights School Board meeting.

Tablets are given to the kindergarten through eighth grade students for use at school and at home. There is filter protection used while at school but there is no filter for use at home, the parents are asked to monitor the usage. The district is reviewing filtering software options for home use.

The tablets were introduced to the school in 2013 as a new way of learning for the students.

“The tablet rollout is a process designed to benefit our students and their educational program,” said Superintendent Andrew Potteiger. “Tablets enable students to access content and resources electronically which creates opportunities to have material updated annually and also have embedded videos in the electronic books and resources.”

According to Potteiger, he has already spoken to the parent who addressed her concerns about the tablets being given out without filter protection. “The reason for the decisions to use technology is to provide students with resources and the sentiment that we want to work with parents in this process,” said Potteiger.

“With the access to electronic media and tablet computers in the hands of students, especially those students who are in 4th grade and older and can take the tablets home with them, we are diligently protecting students from the inappropriate material on the web,” said Potteiger.

“We filter the Internet at school enabling our students to access safe websites and materials in the district,” he said. “We have been working with families to help monitor what students are viewing with their tablets in the home environment.”

According to Potteiger, parents were informed about the tablets and the responsibility they have when the students bring the tablets home.

“We want to work with parents and are asking parents to help monitor what students are doing at home.”

He explained that during the parent kick off session regarding tablet use, the district emphasizes that the devices do not filter material; “it is on the website filters.”

“We emphasized the safety of Internet protection at home in our parent meeting which was mandatory to view prior to a student getting a tablet,” said Potteiger. He stresses the importance of working together with parents to make the tablet initiative a success. “We are not simply trying to push the burden onto parents, but want to work together to protect children.”

Right now, the district is looking for a tablet content filtering product, which will help parents monitor their children’s Internet use at home. “To help parents and to further protect students, we are looking at a few filtering software options for the tablets going home,” said Potteiger. “There is one option which is our Internet filtering product which is currently in test mode to apply it to tablets everywhere on top of the Internet protections.”

“Additionally, we are looking into a few other options and are looking at pricing and features to filter the content on the tablets,” he said. “Again, we want to be proactive and work with parents in shared ownership and responsibility of what children are doing at home.”

“We cannot replace parents but we can work together to help make the best possible situation for children,” said Potteiger.

However, while there have been concerns about the tablets, Potteiger believes that they will benefit students in their learning development. “This initiative will enable students and teachers to connect and enhance the instructional process,” said Potteiger.

“The concept of hybrid learning, where students read the text and gain basic background information at home for homework and then comes in to the classroom and works with teams of students collaborating on projects and receive small group instruction from the teacher instead of a lecture style classroom, is where I anticipate the shift in education occurring,” he said. “This is actually an initiative in the Governor’s budget proposal and he is allocating $10 million to the concept.”

“This also is a cost savings as electronic books are cheaper than paper print,” said Potteiger. “This is not to say we are planning to eliminate all paper books but it does provide our students more engaging interactive educational resources and a budgetary savings.”

“If we as an educational institution are going to improve, we need to ensure that every student understands the learning is provided remediation when they do not understand a concept,” he said.

“With students coming into kindergarten with technology skills which can surpass some adults at 5 years old, we need to adapt to their learning process and use technology to help make our instruction more powerful and efficient through targeted reports on what the class and students need to learn or didn’t understand,” said Potteiger. “It is a very exciting time in education for both students and teachers!”

“I believe we are heading in a great direction for our school district,” said Potteiger. “This initiative will help students be more successful and learn in new innovative ways.”