A 1:1 Initiative Earns Livingston Board of Education's Approval

Monica Cohen and Jefrey Wieboldt speak on behalf of Technology Committee Credits: Carla Wagner
Monica Cohen and Jefrey Wieboldt speak on behalf of Technology Committee Credits: Carla Wagner
Livingston Board of Education Meeting Oct. 1  Credits: Carla Wagner

LIVINGSTON, NJ — Parents, students and teachers attended the Livingston Board of Education meeting Monday to hear the Livingston Technology Committee’s vision for education for the 21st century.

Technology Committee co-chairs Monica Cohen, educational technologist, and Jeffrey Wieboldt, a high school math teacher, presented the committee’s research and recommendations to the school board. The 1:1 Initiative proposes a laptop for each student in grades 7-12, beginning with the 2016 school.

Wieboldt presented the results from the Staff Technology Survey conducted last spring. Results showed that the majority of teachers (68 percent) would be more inclined to incorporate technology into their lessons if their students had access to a device. Results from Livingston High School showed that 78 percent of teachers feel technology is an essential and useful tool that they encourage students to use.

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The study also showed different ways in which students are already using technology in classes for certiain assignments, including accessing class information online, accessing internet for research, collaborating with other students, and producing products designed by teachers and students.

“Learning must drive use of technology, not vice versa,” said Wieboldt.

Cohen formally presented the 1:1 Initiative to the school board and community for the first time on Monday. According to Cohen, the initiative began in the spring of 2014, when the committee first designed the framework for the vision.

Cohen read the vision statement, which stated, “Technology opens pathways to explore, innovate and collaborate in order to cultivate globally aware citizens.” 

The vision statement led to their mission statement to “provide effective technology resources and training to foster a community of academic risk taking, innovation, collaboration, and global awareness.”

Cohen also reviewed the six International Society for Technology Education (ISTE) standards: Creativity and Innovation, Communication and Collaboration, Research and Information Fluency, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, Decision Making,  Digital Citizenship, and Technology Operations and Concepts. According to Cohen, ISTE also has 14 critical elements necessary to run a program effectively.

Cohen concluded her presentation with a quote from Chief Education Evangelist for Google Jaime Casap

“It is critical that we keep out focus on learning, not on the technology,” said Casap. “At the end of the day, the teacher is the single most important factor in a child’s education.”

A video was presented describing childrens’ lives once they enter the workforce, and the impact technology will have. The video reviewed examples of how teachers are currently using technology in their classrooms.   

Mark Stern, principal of LHS, stated in the video, “The laptops are another tool, not a replacement for learning.”

The team presented the pros of the project, and discussed cons and possible pitfalls.

“It is essential, we need to be competitive globally," a parent who came to support the initiative said. "Every company gives you a laptop when you start."

Barbara Geiger said, “It’s going to be expensive, but worth it.”

Justin Gelman, a senior at LHS who already carried a laptop with him every day, asked how they will keep up with new technology so it doesn’t become obsolete. Kevin Chung, a second student at LHS, asked about personal laptops such as MacBook Pro. Student Representative Tej Thakkar addressed the students, saying that everyone in the class needs to be on the same platform. He indicated that although there are many positives to this initiative, there may be some disadvantages that the students will need to conform to.

Cohen informed the group that schools that have tried the “bring your own device” method previously, have since cancelled this program due to the many problems it causes—the main one being that only 50 percent of students brought a device to class. Other issues included battery problems, software updates and ability to connect.

All LBOE members voted to proceed with the initiative, with additional information.

Board members proceeded cautiously as other issues were discussed, including further figures that would need to be obtained for the investment.

“Yes, I think the impact in the classroom is tremendous,” said Interim Superintendent Dr. Ernest Palestis. “It makes the teacher more effective and gives the student more control over his learning.”

Boardmember Art Altman voted “yes,” but stated that to have technology integrated into the curriculum, the district would have to train teachers. He also recommended a pilot program involving a group of students bringing a laptop to school each day, work on assignments in class on it and assess whether there are any issues.

When asked if the teachers were onboard and ready, Laurie Bisconti, eighth grade teacher at Heritage Middle School said, “We are beyond there, we should have been there already.” 

Dakashna Lang, a HMS english teacher said she already uses Instagram, Google, and Edmodo to communicate with her students. Lang has already integrated the use of technology in her class on days when she can reserve the computer cart. However, the popularity of cart use in a classroom setting has caused teachers to fight for it.

The two-hour topic was summed up with next steps, including obtaining costs for the budget meeting and reviewing manufacturers, setup, platforms and sustainability. Results are intended to be presented at the Nov. 23 meeting.

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