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DCSS to consider tablet program

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- Officials with one of the world's leaders in computer technology pitched their idea for the future of the classroom learning experience to Dougherty County School System board members Monday, saying that learning is shifting from a paper-based to a digital-based format.

Glen Benjamin, the regional Sales Manager for Hewlett-Packard Co., briefly outlined the features of HP's Touchpad tablet device, which he said is on the cutting edge of a new learning format that exposes students to their curriculum in a way not yet seen in the Dougherty County system.

No details, including cost or a time frame for implementation, were discussed by the board at the meeting.

Touting its mobile features and the ability to connect to HP's secure "cloud" server for applications and programs, Benjamin said the tablets have the ability to offer learning material to students in a new and different way.

"This device is task-centric not app-centric," Benjamin said. "So whether your talking about sharing instructional or learning videos or emails from teachers to students to parents, this device is only limited by your imagination."

Technology and its integration into a modern educational environment is one that the board has been weighing.

Board Member Darrell Ealum, a proponent of increased technology use, said the system is 10 years behind other systems in implementing technology like smartphones and tablets and said he believes it's something that needs to be discussed, but he withheld condoning or dissenting on the proposed pilot program.

"My concern is how we can use this, translate it to the individual student in the classroom, where that teacher is communicating with that student. ... We need a student-centric paradigm shift," Ealum said.

There was no other discussion among board members on the proposed pilot program during the meeting, however, the board did task attorney Tommy Coleman with drafting a policy dealing with another piece of technology -- cell phones.

According to Kenneth Goseer, the system's assistant superintendent, there has been some differing use of the system's current cell phone policy -- a policy that bans student use of cell phones in schools compelely.

Goseer told board members that some principals abide by the current ordinance, while some allow minimal cell phone use on campus.

"Most of our students have grown up knowing about cell phones," Goseer said. "It's something that needs to be addressed."

Again, Ealum suggested a liberal policy on phones, saying that he believes they will become more and more functional in classrooms as a learning tool and that principals should be given some authority to control their use.

"I think we're going to have to live with students having cell phones. I'm sure that in the next three years, four years or five years at the most, every child is going to be using an IPhone or some other type of similar item in the classroom as a text book," Ealum said. "So to sit here and say 'no cell phones,' we're at least 10 years behind. ... If I had a child in school now, I wouldn't dare send them to school without a cell phone."

Board member David Maschke backed up Ealum's statement, but also added the emphasis of controlling any abuse of the phones.

"Students should know its like driving. It's a privilege, and if they abuse it, they lose it," Maschke said.

Board Member Carol Tharin said there should be a mechanism in place to ensure that phones aren't being used for personal reasons if they are incorporated into the schools.

Board Member Anita Williams-Brown asked that Coleman be tasked with presenting the board with a possible draft ordinance for consideration at a later date.