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May Message: Our strategic integration of technology

LTLT  
 

May 20, 2016

Dear Friends,

It is marvelous to consider that when a kindergartner plays a game on a parent’s new phone, that device holds more computation power than was available to NASA scientists when they put a man on the moon. All that power in one small hand is daunting; how can we guard children against the negative effects associated with the misuse, or overuse, of technology, while tapping its proven potential to vastly improve student learning?

Research tells us that the strategic use of technology in the classroom adds enormous value to the learning process. But to realize its benefits, it is imperative that we thoughtfully and intentionally integrate it into instructional plans designed to support specific learning objectives. For us, technology is a tool, not an end in itself, that we want our children to master in all the right ways. In our district, technology is woven into learning at every educational level to support growth in academics, as well as in “soft skills” such as collaboration, negotiation, and teamwork — skills that we now know to be so important to long-term academic and career success. 

Through our One-to-One Technology to Support Learning initiative, students at every district school have tablets and computers at their fingertips, which allow them to access the most up-to-date curricular content and gives teachers an opportunity to tailor lessons to meet students’ individual needs. This improves differentiated instruction and allows teachers to use class time in more meaningful ways — addressing student needs, delving into finer lesson points and engaging in analytical discussion. Technology also provides additional ways for teachers to assess student learning, which aids in the timely delivery of needed interventions. 

We know that children are attracted by the allure of technology. We tap into that, allowing appropriate amounts of class time for students to practice skill-building using educational apps in the early grades. Soon they move on to learning research skills (including important lessons about how to discern quality data drawn from Internet sources), collaborating and sharing ideas with one another, documenting their conclusions, and presenting their findings in engaging and influential ways — sometimes through the creation of iMovies or Keynote presentations. 

These are among the very skills employers value in their workers. And since many of our students will one day work in jobs that do not yet exist, it is in our students’ best interests that we help them to develop the investigative, social, critical thinking and communication skills that we know they will need for success in any profession. Our students grow in knowledge and skills every day; technology helps them express their growth in a voice that resonates with confidence and polish.

Our One-to-One Technology initiative is part of a district-wide technology plan that includes a robust infrastructure to support our continuous improvement in this area. Our information systems team ensures our children can use technology safely, keeps our software and equipment up-to-date, and, along with our district instructional technology coach, provides our entire professional team with everything needed to ensure we harness technology’s potential to help us bring out the best in every student we serve. We recognize that there is more to be done, but this is work we eagerly undertake. 

It is a privilege to serve your children.

Sincerely,

Benjamin H. Picard, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools

Sunnyvale School District