Notes from the Board Table: Technology moves us forward

A personal highlight for me is the district technology update the board receives twice a year, once in the fall and again in the spring. I am continually impressed with the way technology is changing the way we educate our students.

If you have spent any time in our classrooms or time helping a child with homework lately, you will know what I mean. Today’s learning environment includes vibrant and exciting classrooms, learning centers and online tools, where teachers can deliver interesting presentations that make use of graphics, video, and Internet-based applications. Students make use of educationally adapted iPads at school to work both independently or in small groups, with the teacher moving among the students and offering assistance as needed. Special “sound fields” are in place to amplify the teacher’s voice so all students, especially our hearing-impaired learners, are able to engage in the classroom discussion. And our classrooms are equipped with “document cameras,” which allow students’ work to be displayed and short video clips to be generated.

These are just a few of the advancements that are becoming the norm in Wilton classrooms. Directory of technology Matt Hepfer provided a detailed overview of technology projects at our Dec. 5 regular meeting. I found Matt’s presentation to be exciting and informative and am seeing our precious tax dollars going to good use. It is important to note that many of these technology advances have been greatly enhanced through generous donations from the Wilton Education Foundation, the Wilton PTA, and individual community members.

Going forward, technology planning will focus on several targeted areas including:

Professional development. We need to ensure that our teachers are fully trained and able to attain maximum benefit from our technology investments. Technology changes rapidly, so it is imperative for our teachers to stay well versed in all appropriate developments.

Desktop virtualization. Without getting too into the weeds, Matt explained a “test project” currently under way whereby desktop applications are stored on a server for users to access through just about any device with Internet capability. This holds incredible potential. Right now our leased desktop computers have a four- to five-year shelf life. Desktop virtualization shows the potential to extend the life of these devices and enable the use of personal devices at a significant cost savings to the district. Our “virtual desktop” also means that students and staff members could in theory access necessary applications from anywhere.

Special education/iPad utilization. Matt described the impact of technology on our special education services by saying: “iPad is king, and will continue to be the king.” So far, this doesn’t appear to be an overstatement. The iPad has allowed our teachers to connect with special education students in ways previously not possible. Steve Jobs probably never anticipated his creation would revolutionize special education services, but that is precisely what is happening.

As I said, I have a particular fondness for technology, and its impact on education. Maybe it’s my early career roots of working for IBM and Sun Microsystems. I know many of us joke about having to ask our children to help with our computers and mobile devices. If you stop by one of our classrooms and take a look at what’s going on, you’ll understand why our kids are so savvy.

Technology was not the only item discussed last week.

Dr. Richards provided an update on recent district-wide radon testing. Earlier this fall, each of our schools was tested for radon as part of our ongoing indoor air quality standards review. However, after the testing was completed, we learned we had been given conflicting protocol requirements which ultimately led to the test results being invalid.

Consequently, the testing company has agreed to retest all of our schools at no cost to the district. At this point we have not established dates for the retesting, but suspect it will take place during January. Parents will be notified when the tests are scheduled, and provided with detailed information.

Our next board event is a “Budget Review and Study Session,” scheduled for Dec. 19 at 3 p.m. in the WHS Professional Library. This will be our first opportunity to meet with administration officials and discuss specific budget priorities. The public is welcome.