WINNSBORO — At his final town hall meeting for 2013, School Superintendent J.R. Green called upon educators and administrators to revamp the way educators embrace technology in Fairfield County.
He advocates a “bring your own device policy” that would allow students to bring their own iPods, iPads and smartphones and use them in ways that are integrated into the curriculum.
Green admitted that some parents might have reservations about the idea but said other districts use the policy effectively.
“You can’t hide from technology, so you might as well embrace it,” said Green. “Teaching responsible use of technology is a huge paradigm shift.”
The school district would send out a survey first to see how many students had the devices. Part of the survey would allow parents and teachers to have input in the decision making process.
He noted that schools in Rock Hill and Greenville have “bring your own device” policies. He said this new policy would keep administrators from fighting the battle of having students bringing phones to school illegally. Instead, they could use the technology to broaden their learning opportunities and ready the students for 21st century careers.
“It makes no sense for children to have technology and not be able to use it,” he said.
If a high percentage of students had the technology, “then the district could supplement the students with devices in the classroom to ensure all had access.”
He said he welcomes dialogue on the policy and that he sides on using the devices to teach responsible use versus restriction, noting that personal responsibility is one reason for postgraduate education being successful, as well as good time management skills and self discipline.
Another idea on Green’s mind is adding a 13th year for students who would be taking courses for a certification at Midlands Tech. By making available an option for students to receive these degrees, it is hoped they would improve their employability and develop skills needed to match job opportunities in this area and beyond.
“The STEMS program was the first thing (I mentioned) but we are committed to ideas with multiple choices for students within our education system,” Green said.
It is unclear how a 13th year would be funded at this time. Green did note that students currently can take dual credit courses at MTC at no cost, but the 13th year would be a different program, potentially.
“MTC has been a wonderful partner,” he said. “We need to devise this program so that it is not just open to the financially advantaged, so we would need to figure out funding. There is poverty in this county, so whatever program is implemented will not create a program only for the financially advantaged.”
Green mentioned how the perception statewide is changing with regard to Fairfield County Schools, that people are applying for teaching jobs here in larger numbers and that his team will work to seize that momentum in moving the district forward.
Resident Thomas Armstrong applauded the forward thinking superintendent. He asked Green about repeat offenders for disciplinary problems and how that was handled so as not to impede other students’ education.
“It is a complex situation and solution to remove a child from the system in order to help others,” Green said. “Honestly, these are tough decisions.”
He noted that this year more students were removed from traditional school than in years past and were placed in alternative learning environments.
“You hate to do that but you can’t allow a student to sacrifice the education of others,” Green said.
Another idea suggested at an employee forum was expanding wireless technology to school buses. Such technology would allow students to have Internet access during long commutes across the county and, it is hoped, would eliminate discipline problems since students would be occupied with their technology.
In other news, Green assured those present that the district would do its due diligence before a building was constructed. The current site is located between Fairfield County High School and Fairfield County Middle School.
Students will be able to walk from one campus to the other, something Green says will lead to increased enrollment in Career Center programming. He said there are focus groups working on a school design and that they have visited facilities in Lexington and Rock Hill for ideas. Community meetings will also be held to let residents look at the plans.
Contact Kevin Boozer at 635-4016 ext. 14 or firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @kevinboozer.