Preparing Our Children for the Third Millennium
Educational institutions will face numerous issues of importance in the years ahead. However, one issue that will affect all others will be that of technology.
In order to prepare our students to be well-adjusted life-long learners and productive members of our society, we must make sure that our educational institutions are providing them with access to the latest contemporary technology. Without access to such technology, learners are receiving less than a complete education. If we expect our students to function in a global and competitive society, they must develop competencies and skills beyond those of a traditional education.
We must change the way we think about educating our children. Technology should be viewed as a tool to provide systemic change. All students must have equal access to equal resources. We must move from worksheets to computers and from textbooks to the Internet. Libraries must become multimedia centers where students can work independently to access information and become problem-solvers. With this in place, disengaged learners will become engaged learners, students will learn at their own pace and student confidence will grow.
In order for any of this to be successful for our students, there must be professional development for our staff. Administrators must become facilitators of teachers' successes, and teachers in turn, must become facilitators of students' successes. Once we empower our teachers with technological training and knowledge, they will be comfortable in transferring such knowledge into their classrooms. We will no longer see 25 students working on ditto sheets, but rather classrooms of students who are directly engaged in their own education, empowered to be successful in all aspects of instruction.
Small District Is Big Role Model
At Vineland Public Schools we are taking such initiatives and changing the way we think about educating our children.
In preparing our students for the Third Millennium, we have gone from one computer in a classroom with a teacher who is apprehensive to use it, to full teacher training programs, computer classes for parents and 36 computer labs district-wide with at least one lab in every building.
Each school's media center has computerized research and multimedia technologies available. Telecommunication capabilities are provided to each school. Satellite technology and distance learning are available at the high, middle and elementary schools. There are also a variety of computers located at the Kindergarten and Preschool buildings.
In addition to the traditional audio-visual items, videodisc players, large-screen monitors, CD-ROM drives and LCD projection panels are located throughout the district.
Vineland School District has written an operational Computer Maintenance Plan that services the district's many computers and associated technologies. This plan provides for a Computer Maintenance Department as well as Computer Maintenance Fund for parts and spare parts.
Future plans for Vineland Public Schools:
- Establish a Software Review Committee for district-wide software identification.
- Summer computer training for identified personnel.
- Establish LANs at the two high schools and four middle schools.
- Install distance learning capabilities for all middle and elementary schools.
- Establish a Library Review Committee for library automation hardware/software (K-12).
- Establish library automation systems (card catalogs) at all four middle schools.
- Establish an Applied Technology program and modest video-production lab.
Vineland has been selected by both the New Jersey Department of Education and the New Jersey Urban Superintendents Association to provide our Five Year Technology Plan as a sample model to be presented to other districts. The district has also been designated as an exemplary school district in technology.
With continued commitment to new technologies, we will see a change in the position of power as our students become learners who can navigate and access all necessary information to function productively in the 21st century. n
Mary Gruccio is principal of Max Leuchter Elementary, Maurice Fels Kindergarten Center and Oak & Main Kindergarten Center for Vineland Public Schools.
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This article originally appeared in the 05/01/1996 issue of THE Journal.