Denebola interviews Shelby Chamberlain, South’s Director of Information Technology

By Denebola
Published: June 2010

Denebola interviewed Director of Information Technology Shelley Chamberlain about how students at Newton South benefit from the availability and use of technology in their classes. Chamberlain responded to a number of questions regarding how students and teachers use technology to support the education process.

1) What are the benefits students at South get from technology that were not available for previous generations?

Perhaps the biggest benefit has been the introduction of mobility at South.

Last summer the IT Department installed managed wireless, which means that students and faculty can get access to the Web anywhere, anytime during the school day. We have also introduced access to storage for student documents from a central server, which means students can access their documents no matter what computer they are using.

2) Do you think technology has caused the difficulty of schoolwork to increase or decrease? Some of both?

I believe the recent development of technology are a great tool for students to do their school and homework.

With the introduction of cloud computing using Google docs, students can access any documents they have created from home and school. It is much easier to edit documents and collaborate with others on shared project.

3) Do you think the availability of technology to South students has changed teachers’ expectations?

Yes, I believe teachers can expect a higher quality of work, especially since students have wonderful research tools available on the World Wide Web. The key Is for students to learn effective searching strategies, especially given the overwhelming amount of information now available.

4) Can technology be distracting to students’ studies?

Yes, it can also be distracting. How many of us started searching on the Web for one particular topic and then got intrigued with other areas.

The ease of communication means one has to stay focus and not get distracted by texting or emails.

5) What are the dangers students may encounter with recent technology? Do these dangers/negative effects outweigh the positive effects, in your opinion?

Part of a Newton education is to learn how to responsibly use the many Web resources available. Yes, there are some dangers, such as Cyperbullying, when the Web is not used in a positive way.

However, instant access to the Web is not going away, so it is important for students to be educated on how to use Web resources (including chat rooms and email) in a way that is not harmful to themselves or others. How to be a responsible ‘ËœCyber Citizen is now being taught starting in elementary school.

6) Are students who do not have access to modern technology (computer, Internet, email, cell phones) at a disadvantage? Why or why not? What does NPS do about this?

Yes, I believe that students who do not have access are at a disadvantage as there are so many valuable resources on the Web, such as science or math simulations or research sites that help students learn about a topic.

We keep the library open after school for students who do not have access, and every library has workstations available for students to use in the evenings.

The IT Department believes that use of mobile computing is a big advantage so we are working towards improving our infrastructure to allow students to bring in mobile devices on a regular basis.

For students who cannot afford the technology, we are investigating ways to arrange for providing the technology.

7) Do you believe technology has changed the way in which parents are involved in their child’s life? What is your opinion on the newly proposed ParentConnect?

I believe that ParentConnect can help the home-school communication if used in a way to help both parents and students.

By that I mean students need to have access so they can check and monitor their work.

Teachers need to have the control to decide what gets published on the portal. We will be starting with three schools in the fall (South, Brown and Williams) to test out the best way to roll out this program. To start we will publish only term grades and attendance.

8) What are other recent changes in technology that have occurred in South? Have the budget cuts affected technology?

Two years ago teachers received new laptops, and this year South received a new science lab.

However budget cuts have made it difficult to maintain a reasonable replacement schedule for student computers. (The average age of labs at South is 7 years old.)

The School Department is making the replacement of student laptop carts and labs a high priority for any end of the year funds available.

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