USD 232 (De Soto) school board candidates on the issues: Technology in the classroom

USD 232 COVID relief

Mize Elementary students used school devices to write, design, edit and publish a book themed around the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo courtesy USD 232.

In August, we asked our readers about the issues you wanted to hear the candidates running for USD 232 board of education address. Based on your feedback, we developed a five-item questionnaire touching on the most important issues to patrons of the district.

Each day this week, we will publish the candidates’ responses to one of five questions. Today, we are publishing candidates’ responses to the following question:

What are your views about the role of technology in the classroom? Are you comfortable with the amount of time students spend on screens during the school day? Why or why not?

Below are the answers the Post received from the candidates on this issue:

School District Member 4

Crystal Duke

I believe the role of technology in the classroom is paramount. As the world changes and starts using more technology, so must our children. As with anything, there are pros and cons. I believe that technology in the classroom, while important, can also be used for wrong purposes, can be a distraction, and be counter productive in a learning environment. This calls for each teacher to be more aware, and wise, than ever before.

On a classroom by classroom basis, I believe our teachers need some freedoms to use more or less technology depending on what they feel they see and need to do. It is important to not go overboard in this area, but drawing a line in the sand for what overboard might be (at this point) depends on the temperament and needs of the class at hand. At this point I support the teachers desires in this area, and am a willing voice should there need to be advocacy in any one direction.

Danielle Heikes (incumbent)

During my six years serving on the USD 232 school board, I have had the honor and privilege of being involved in many incredible opportunities and initiatives in our district. One of the most notable opportunities has been the passing of an $85 million bond our voters overwhelmingly passed in 2018. This bond has enabled substantial improvements and new projects in our district, including the roll out of a 1:1 technology program for all students and teachers. With this roll out, our district partnered with other area districts who had previous experience rolling out 1:1 technology programs. Through this partnership, we were able to leverage best practices incorporated by other districts and ensure the successful deployment and usage of 1:1 devices in our district.

Fortunately, our district’s 1:1 technology program was fully deployed prior to COVID-19 and we were able to use Zoom classrooms and online curriculum during this unprecedented time. Our teachers were able to remain connected with their students, which is a critical component of learning, and students were able to remain connected with their peers, which is a critical component of student well-being. Additionally, we were able to minimize learning loss during the remote/hybrid time period last school year.

By incorporating technology in the classroom, students are learning relevant, real-world skills for their future. Technology in the classroom is a tool meant to enhance learning and curriculum. Screen time should be age-appropriate and balanced with many other learning tools. Our teachers are well-versed in recommended age-appropriate screen time allotments and have many teaching and learning tools at their ready. Not only am I comfortable with the use of technology in our district, but I applaud the effort of many teachers, staff, and parents who ensured our 1:1 technology roll out was seamless and continues to be a successful program in our district.

I would also like to mention that our district has implemented various protocols to ensure appropriate usage of technology, including elementary devices remaining at school at all times (2020-2021 school year notwithstanding), Securly software for parents/guardians to monitor device and internet usage, and data loss prevention strategies. Although this information is not directly related to the question, as a parent, it’s important for my own family and hopefully will be helpful for other families as well.

School District Member 5

Amy Parker

I believe we need to leverage every technology we can afford as a district to get our children as ready as possible for college and careers.

Each classroom should be able to take advantage of relevant, appropriate technologies that can give teachers an edge in teaching, and students an edge in learning. I am comfortable with screen time at school because the focus of that time is on learning.

Calley Malloy

Technology is an integral part of our lives and future. I trust the teachers and staff to use technology as a tool, not a replacement. I am thankful the technology roll out happened prior to COVID, as technology for all of us was a significant connector.

I believe where the responsibility lies is me as a parent, to make sure I am limiting screen time when my children are at home. I am thankful the iPads do not leave the elementary buildings (with the exception of last year), that being said I love hearing about all the awesome projects my kindergartener is creating on his tablet.

John Gaignat

Gaignat’s name will appear on the ballot, but he has bowed out of the race.

School District Member 6

Brandi Jonasson

I think technology is a wonderful thing that when partnered with teaching can be an amazing tool for our children. When technology is used in school, it is not for passive activities. Whether you do math, science, or reading on paper or a tablet, your brain is still engaged in processing information. Technology offers us limitless resources.

Students can speak to an author or take a tour of a museum or a piece of history they may never get a chance to see in person. They can visit with a class on the East Coast or a classroom in China. Technology can open up the world to students. As long as site monitoring is active, kids’ brains are engaged, and this is paired with teaching, I have no problem with technology time in the classroom.

Emily Carpenter

I believe technology plays a very important role in the education of students today. I am so thankful our district had our 1:1 MacBook Initiative in place pre-Covid. This initiative allowed for a much smoother transition from in-person to remote learning during the school shut down in the spring of 2020 and when our district opted to begin the 2020-2021 school year remotely. I also believe students should be learning more about the technology they are using and how to do bigger and better things with it.

There are many known negative effects of too much screen time, so I think there needs to be a balance of technology in the classroom. Technology is a much-needed asset to use for education. The teacher is still the most important resource that our students have in terms of learning. We need to challenge students to think, evaluate information, make reasoned decisions, and defend conclusions both verbally and in writing. We need students that can think critically and defend their position in a reasoned and logical manner.

On Friday, we will publish the candidates’ responses to the following question:

What’s the biggest challenge facing USD 232 schools today, and what should the board of education be doing to address it?