New direction praised for school technology | SierraSun.com

New direction praised for school technology

Andrew Cristancho
Sierra Sun
Ryan Salm/Sierra SunLaura Van Hook helps out Courtney Cox during a Photoshop assignment in a digital art class last school year at North Tahoe High School. The unified school district is making a new technology plan for the 2007-08 school year.
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Trustees and administrators with the Tahoe Truckee Unified School district decided on a new direction in how technology should be used after listening last week to how the district currently uses high-tech teaching aids.

Trustee Bill Kraus presented a slide show that identified a new way forward for the district’s 11 schools. Kraus implied the three-year policy the district adopted last year to guide its purchases of equipment like computers and software, can be improved.

“As a board we need to have a vision [for using technology] to operate as a unified district,” Kraus said later in a phone interview. “We can no longer think locally. Our kids need to be competitive in the global market place when they get out of school.”

Last year, the school board approved the existing plan that guides district purchases of high-tech equipment. According to the plan, 90 percent of the district’s classrooms are connected to the Internet, and four out of five teachers have a computer assigned for their use.

Software includes programs for teaching both English and math.

The plan stated that the district’s elementary school students use computers on a weekly basis, while all other students use technology every school day.

The plan identified as benchmark goals to have 70 percent of students from kindergarten through high school to be proficient in the use of computers by 2008, and all the district’s students to be proficient by the following year.

But among those who represent such funding sources as the district’s Measure A parcel tax and Excellence in Education, the idea of a new approach to technology is appealing.

“We are excited that the school board is looking at this,” said Executive Director Laura Brown of Excellence in Education, a locally based foundation that awards money to district schools. “We would like to see a comprehensive plan in place.”

Which begs the question what is wrong with last year’s plan?

Trustee Bev Ducey said it’s not what’s wrong with the old plan, but what should be added. Ducey said she thinks a plan is needed that sets specific educational benchmarks at each grade level. She said the current plan lacks a timetable for what every child should know and when they should know it.

Newer schools like North Tahoe High School have new computer labs, but Kraus said the money spent on them could be spent more effectively. One idea is to bring in an outside technology consultant to help identify which technology to acquire.