D.215 schools chief sees need to get current on technology

2013-10-27T00:00:00Z D.215 schools chief sees need to get current on technologyGregory Tejeda Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
October 27, 2013 12:00 am  • 

CALUMET CITY | The idea of students using their cellphones in high school was once abhorrent to school officials who feared some students might try to use the technology to cheat in class.

But officials with Thornton Fractional Township High School District 215 are now seeing there are legitimate educational opportunities that can take advantage of students being able to use their smart phones in class.

District Superintendent Creg Williams told the School Board on Tuesday they are going to have to consider changes in policies for students at TF North and TF South high schools. Any changes would not take effect until the 2014-15 school year.

“We’re entering a world that is normal for (students), but not normal for us,” Williams said, during a meeting of the Information Technology Committee.

He cited the fact the district is developing apps that people can download onto their smart phones to easily get information about the high schools in Lansing and Calumet City.

Officials have said it may be possible to put information about class assignments onto the apps, so students could easily access it.

“We have the capability now to do this, but we’d have to make some adjustments,” said Wale Ade, the district’s information technology director.

What stands in the way is that students aren’t permitted to have smart phones in school, and technically can only use cell phones during limited times in between classes.

“My son told me, 'What’s the point?'" said School Board member Sheryl Black. “They can’t download assignments.”

Williams said the existing policies related to cell phones and other communications technology were designed for a world that no longer exists.

“Our policies are about 10 years old, they need some change,” Williams said. “We (adults) are a little more uncomfortable than they are.

“This is just the way of the world, and we have to adapt,” he said.

Williams could not say what changes would be made, or when. But he said it would be a subject up for much discussion by the School Board in coming months, one that he says will involve a change in the way school officials view technology.

“The problem with us is that we view all this from up here,” he said, holding his hand up over his head. “But the kids and their parents are right here,” holding his hand at head-level.

“They have a day-to-day viewpoint on this and the way they use it, in ways that we don’t always comprehend at first,” said Williams. “We’ve got to progress down to the student level.”

In a separate matter, Williams said he’d like to see a “virtual tour” of the T.F. North and T.F. South campuses put on the district’s website at www.tfd215.org so that people could become more familiar with the facilities.

“We should show them off, we have beautiful buildings,” he said, adding later, “We have nice (athletic) fields. We should let people see them.”

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