WAYNESBORO, Pa. —The Waynesboro Area School Board took a step Tuesday toward creating digital classrooms and replacing traditional textbooks.
The board authorized spending $33,600 for 120 Google-based Chromebook laptop computers for use by sixth-graders in science and social studies classes. Each of the district’s four elementary schools will receive 30 of the computers to access digital textbooks.
Board member Billie Finn questioned why the district is constantly buying iPads, laptop carts and SMART Boards. She said she doesn’t feel there is a cohesive plan for technology spending.
“It’s like the ‘technology of the month’ club,” she said.
Finn asked her fellow board members if they want to progress to a more digitally based learning environment, even though she has not seen evidence it improves student achievement.
She lamented seeing students “living their lives with a smartphone in one hand and an iPad over here,” while losing their ability to think critically.
“The in-class time should be dedicated to teacher instruction,” she said.
Board member Rita Daywalt said it is a question of needing to go digital, not wanting to. She said Waynesboro will get dragged behind because the nation’s classrooms will be digital.
“That’s how they work at college,” she said.
Assistant Superintendent Wendy Royer said surveys will be done to see how the sixth-grade program works.
The sixth-grade students will be exposed to the Chromebooks as they rotate into their science and social studies classrooms. The computers will have interactive lessons and text that can be read aloud by the machine.
“I think this is a good way to start it with some of our best teachers,” Royer said.
Officials discussed printing packets to send home with students, who will not be permitted to take the computers out of class. They already are typically not permitted to take textbooks home.
Board member Ed Wilson criticized only receiving information about the purchase Tuesday and being asked for a decision that night. He also said young people cannot plan effectively because of their dependence on devices.
“It seems every time we turn around, it’s more technology and more technology. ... I think we need to put some books into the classroom instead of just buying these,” he said.
“We for so long did not put money into technology, and we’re playing catchup,” board member Bonnie Bachtell said.
The state Keystone Exams that measure proficiency might be completely online in three years, Royer said.