By Jessica Tuggle
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY - From desktop computers to interactive white boards to iPads and smartphones, technology has taken a permanent home in American culture and within school classrooms.
While blanket use of cell phones and other personal electronic devices are not allowed on school grounds during the school day, Indian River County School District staff is considering updating the policy to allow limited use of the personal devices under teacher direction for classroom instruction.
Earlier this year, an Impact 100 grant of $100,000 was awarded to The Education Foundation of Indian River County. The funds were used to purchase a network security device that allows students to bring their own Internet-enabled devices to school and be safe when browsing for permitted school projects.
Impact 100 is a philanthropic group of women in Vero Beach who donate large sums of money to causes around the county.
Even without students bringing in their own electronic devices, all district classrooms have quite a bit of advanced technological devices within them, staff said.
"We have standardized the technology infrastructure in each classroom at all levels to ensure that all students have equal access to technology," said Bruce Green, executive director of instructional and information technology, in an email interview.
"Each classroom has an LCD projector that allows the teacher to display their computer on a large screen for the entire class. There is also a document camera in each classroom that allows the teacher to display materials, manipulative and other 3d objects onto the screen in color," he said.
In the newly built Vero Beach Elementary School, the classroom has a special technological enhancement to promote learning.
The LCD projectors installed in the classrooms have the capability of turning a white marker board into an interactive learning surface, Mr. Green said.
The marker board is then digitally tied to the classroom computer and with the help of software applications, the students can use the marker board to assist in their learning experience.
"This new technology brings the integration of technology to a new level by physically engaging the students in the learning process," Mr. Green said.
"Today's workplace, as well as the newly emerging jobs of tomorrow, requires us to prepare our students to be technologically advance in order to be competitive globally," he said.
Ensuring the classrooms have current technologies is one way the district can help students not be disadvantaged, Mr. Green said.
Advanced technology around students does come with a slight amount of danger when it comes to unwanted, inappropriate or offensive contact.
"Although the district employs technology measures to 'filter' out unwanted and unacceptable content, there is always the possibility that a student may gain access to this type of material," Mr. Green said.
Connectivity in the form of social media is another avenue the district is investigating to help student-teacher interaction in a modern form.
The district is implementing a free social media learning platform, "Edmodo," that allows teachers to network with one another, Mr. Green said.
Students will also be given access to the social media site and can view assignments from teachers and participate in discussion topics posted by teachers. This will provide a new digital learning opportunity for students, while giving teachers access and controls to ensure students interact in an appropriate manner, he said.