As vice president of IT for a digital marketing company, Nathan Wilkes believes Vancouver’s students should be learning to create micro blogs and videos to express themselves.
The District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC) representative to the Vancouver School Board’s ICT committee and a member of Hamber’s parent advisory council, Wilkes plans to make a presentation to DPAC Nov. 14. He hopes the discussion will lead to DPAC pushing for key improvements and changes related to technology in schools.
“I’ve been advocating also on active transportation, cycling safety and whatnot for the past year and what I’ve noticed is that often there’s a lot of talk but not a lot of doing,” he said.
The school board is still rolling out wireless Internet at Vancouver schools, an effort superintendent of schools Steve Cardwell says has been made difficult by the district’s large, old brick buildings. Once Wi-Fi is in place, the district will work with the province and providers to increase bandwidth so students could use Wi-Fi to watch videos, videoconference and perhaps Skype with students in other countries.
Cardwell says the district is developing a policy to allow students to use their own devices on district Wi-Fi in classrooms.
When the school board allows students to use its wireless Internet, it will have to make sure its wireless connection is secure, students avoid inappropriate searches and that all students will be able to use Wi-Fi, not just those whose families can afford to buy them mobile devices.
Wilkes is concerned students bringing their own devices to school would require students to share their personal devices and could lead to privacy and other problems. He wants district-wide digital citizenship training for students.
The school board worked to increase the number of mobile carts with tablets, laptops and iPod touches for student use at schools. Two-thirds of Vancouver schools have a cart with mobile devices. In many cases PACs pay for this equipment.
Audrey Van Alstyne, district principal of learning technology, said up to 10 secondary and 30 elementary schools in the district have minimal access to mobile devices but district carts get moved around. She said most of the inner city schools have mobile devices.
Wilkes notes it’s difficult for teachers to integrate tools that can excite students about lessons when they’re sharing one cart. He notes, “parent fundraising fatigue is definitely occurring,” particularly at the secondary level.
“The technology isn’t very well integrated into the curriculum,” he said. “You can’t be surprised because the people doing the teaching were educated at a time when there was no Internet, by and large… At some point either we have to wait for the teachers to change a generation or we have to enable the teachers to make some significant change, because the kids are passing them by. It’s not possible to simply say education is about text-based learning, reading and writing like it was a hundred years ago.”
Cardwell wants students to access online applications. “Some of the apps that you can download about space and the planets or about the elements, for example, are just amazing and you just can’t get that information, that knowledge out of a textbook,” he said. “It is something that is right up to date.”
Cardwell said the district is exploring how students could safely store the digital work they’re creating online and access it from different devices.
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