Technology was a focal point of discussion at the Rumson-Fair Haven Regional Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, as the use of in-house tablet computers and "bring your own device" policies are undergoing trial runs this year at the high school.
While the board members all agreed that these devices can be very useful in the classroom, they also questioned the amount of actual learning that transpires with their use.
Twenty tablet computers have been distributed to a test group of 10 staff members and 10 supervisors and administrators this year, all of whom are being asked to use the devices as much as possible within their everyday schedules.
So far, the test users have found that while tablets and other handheld technology can be used for helpful functions, like taking notes and transferring files, the main problem is that the high school has yet to find a streamlined way in which teachers can actually use them to teach lessons.
"We could have [students] take notes now, but we want them to learn," said Superintendent Peter Righi. "There are a lot of issues involved."
Because many faculty and staff members do not have an extensive knowledge of how to incorporate modern technology into a classroom, Righi suggested bringing students on board.
"It will help down the road, maybe several months down the road, to get kids involved," Righi said, adding that the average students often seems to know more about modern technology than a lot of adults. "To ask them, 'How will this help you learn?' "
Nevertheless, board member Meaghan Ladd maintained that they should hold off on forming a student committee until teachers can catch up and learn more about implementing the technology available to them. "I do think that waiting very carefully is the way to go," she said.
Another issue is that many tablets seem to have the "inherent problem" of the inability to connect with other devices currently used — like computers, printers, and projectors, School Business Administrator and Board Secretary Frank Gripp interjected. Planning lessons with tablets is, therefore, difficult, he said, although the district is, in fact, experimenting with different types of tablets.
While going over the relatively new idea of having students bring their own electronic devices to school to aid in their education, board member Sarah Maris pointed out that the concept as a whole is still very much in its infancy. As such, there are no good examples for the district to follow in order to properly implement the new policy.
"So over the next six months or so we're going to have to develop our own policy," Maris said.
Although no official actions were taken at the meeting, some board members expressed concern that if they move too slowly in developing a policy, the technology they have will quickly become outdated.
"Technology will leap frog past us," board member James Wassel said, citing news reports that today's top devices will be considered outdated in about three years.