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Scituate to install interactive technology in classrooms

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  May 30, 2013 05:05 PM

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Starting this summer, numerous classrooms will each get $6,000 of advanced software as the Scituate Public Schools continue upgrading technology throughout the district.

Proposed during a May 20 School Committee meeting, electronic displays would be installed in dozens of classrooms, enabling teachers to not only use the interactive software in the classroom, but save the programs and access them elsewhere in the building.

“This technology is similar to Smart Boards in that it is interactive; however, it has advantages that Smart Boards do not have, such as mobility from room to room, wireless capability, ability to copy and save what’s on the screen, and built-in sound system,” said Superintendent John McCarthy.

McCarthy said he long had the idea to bring this newer software into Scituate, and started looking into it during his tenure in Freetown.

After coming on board in Scituate 10 months ago, McCarthy started serious conversations with the School Department about the technology plan, bringing Scituate resident and technology consultant Paul Shiff, owner of Hub Technical Service of South Easton, into the discussions.

According to McCarthy, a partial technology plan was already in place. But while the school district had added high-speed Internet, wireless capabilities, and had Smart Boards in several elementary classrooms, there wasn’t a plan for the future.

“When I got here, there was in place $150,000 to spend on technology in the hands of students, teachers, whatever. But there was no real plan to spend it,” McCarthy said, adding that the school department requested an additional $150,000 at this past Town Meeting.

The options were endless, including bringing in iPads for every student. McCarthy and Shiff eventually decided on the “eBeam” technology, which they have slowly begun proposing to administrators and teachers across the district.

“One of the things about technology is it moves so quickly. You want to make sure you’re getting the latest, but that it’s transitional, and can be used many years to come,” McCarthy said.

The decided-upon technology would cost approximately $6,000 for each classroom, a price that includes installation.

According to McCarthy, the eBeam is similar to a Smart Board, but isn't a board, rather a device that projects an interactive screen onto a wall or white board.

“It’s cheaper than a Smart Board and it does more,” McCarthy said.

The technology would also eventually allow students to bring in their own technology, which surveys show many students already have, and interact with the software.

“We haven’t made any decisions on a vendor, where we’re getting it from. We just have an idea of what we want and approximately what it’s gong to cost,” McCarthy said. “We haven’t decided how we’ll purchase it. That will be the next step. I’m meeting Monday with a group that will decide what’s the plan, what will we need, where will it go, and how will we train people on it.”

The goal is to get the technology installed over the summer, to have several “model classrooms” which this type of technology set up for the fall.

Though the plan is to eventually roll out this type of program to the entire district, the priority is to first complete the technology outfitting at the elementary schools. Twenty to twenty-five elementary classrooms currently don’t have a projector or interactive white board.

“The elementary classrooms should be very doable for us. It’s going to be where do we want to put the model classrooms at Gates [Middle School] and the high school? We won’t invest a ton in Gates because…eventually it will be totally renovated or built new. When that happens, that will have the latest and greatest.”

Installation would begin this summer, McCarthy said.

To those that might scoff at the high price for technology they never had growing up, McCarthy said in today’s world, the software is an invaluable teaching tool.

“Today’s student has grown up in a world of technology. This technology allows teachers to engage students at much higher levels than ever before,” he said.

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