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Patriots Perspective: 'Tech Time' for Pequot Lakes Schools

Teacher manuals, filmstrips, 8mm movie reels, tape recorder, opaque projector, chalkboard and a purple ditto machine with that horrible smelling fluid.

I know I am aging myself, but those were the tools I had access to as I began my teaching career in 1987. Reflecting back I sound like a grandmother as I am able to recount the advent of — and explain — dot matrix printer paper that rolled out of the machine with perforated edges, floppy disks with “holes” that the students couldn’t touch, and video cameras so big they hurt your shoulder in use.

But it wasn’t that long ago, right? I’m really not that old. “Tech Time” just moves quicker than “Real Time.” And with its ever quickening speed of change, we are faced with infinite possibilities. With those possibilities come decisions — at home, at work and in our schools.

Families make decisions about cell phones, computer use and social networking. Businesses acquire equipment and software to streamline processes, research possibilities, build databases and network with others.

And schools? There is no doubt that technology is revolutionizing the way teachers can teach and students can learn.

With the Internet and digital curriculum, walls have tumbled down. The classroom is as big as the world and all the people in it. Inquiry, research, demonstrations, presentations, animations, virtualizations are all at our fingertips in a matter of seconds.

As an educator, and a parent, it is both exhilarating and daunting. The implementation of instructional technology must be done right.

So what does that mean, “done right?” To me, it comes down to many words that start with the letter “P” all happening simultaneously within the school setting. The following are what I believe to be Pequot Lakes’ “Ps” for tech integration:

• Passed: In 2011, district voters approved the bond referendum. This referendum updated all facilities and created a strong infrastructure for instructional technology and wireless education. We are all so grateful for this support and commitment.

• People: School board, superintendent, administrators, teachers, IT support and staff are all working together through building and district technology committees, designing a comprehensive tech roadmap for the future.

PTA and community members are supporting the purchase of devices and integration. And a district-wide tech integrationist helps tie the pieces together.

• Possibilities & Planning: This year a large school group attended the MN TIES Tech Conference. Devices, programs and platforms have been investigated and piloted throughout the year. We are connected to statewide technology networks where ideas are shared and problems navigated. We continue to sift through the nonstop possibilities for our students.

• Policy & Procedures: Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and Acceptable Use Policies have been written and are about to be shared with all stakeholders. Definitions and procedures need to be specifically stated so that teachers are able to incorporate devices for enhanced instruction and students optimize their potential safely and without distraction. BYOD will also inform and impact purchasing decisions.

• Purchases & Preparation: While some districts purchase devices and give to students in a 1:1 initiative, we believe it’s important to have the “right tool for the task.”

This is not to say we won’t be a 1:1 school district at some point, but right now our tech roadmap includes a variety of devices for different ages and/or curricular needs.

These devices, as well as programs and platforms, must be paired with preparation of use. Tech support needs time to install and troubleshoot. Teachers need time and professional development training to implement to the fullest degree.

• Progress: As we begin these initial stages, we can never forget measurements of progress and student achievement. Effectiveness must be analyzed. Enhanced teaching and engaged, rigorous learning are the goals of these investments. They must happen.

• Perseverance & Patience: “Tech Time” moves faster than “Real Time,” but it’s going to take “Real Time” to do this right. That is going to take patience and perseverance as we research and implement options, wait for the completion of the building project, watch other districts implement new things or see ideas we’d like for our children.

We also need to remember that technology is not the answer to everything. It will never replace the caring, concerned, dynamic teacher. It will just allow that teacher to take his or her instruction to a new and different level.

• Perfection: Sorry, that’s not one of our “Ps” and probably never will be. Practice and perfecting, yes. Complete perfection, no.

From purple dittos to SMART Boards, I have seen so much in my 26 years. For me, there are too many exciting change possibilities to ever be perfect or content. I can only imagine what I will see in the next five years of my career.

It’s exciting to think about, but only “Tech Time” will tell.

(Laurie Wig is director of curriculum, assessment and instructional technology at Pequot Lakes Schools.)