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Coding And Connectivity: New Plan To More Fully Integrate Technology In Vt. Classrooms

Gov. Phil Scott says it would be possible to avoid a statewide property tax increase by mandating a higher student to staff ratio
Peter Drescher, technology coordinator for the Vermont Agency of Education, says teachers can do a better job of embracing technology in the classroom.

Vermont still has a lot of work to do to fully integrate technology into public school classrooms, according to the latest draft of the state's digital learning plan, put out by the Agency of Education.

The last statewide digital learning plan for Vermont's schools came out in 2012; a lifetime ago when it comes to technology.

Peter Drescher is the technology coordinator for the Vermont Agency of Education. Drescher says this issue isn't having enough computers — the schools have plenty at this point — but that teachers aren't fully embracing the technology.

"I think the digital-use divide is still a big issue," Drescher says. "You can walk down a hallway and find only two teachers out of 10 who are using technology in their classrooms. It's a serious equity issue at schools, and we can't have that anymore."

The last digital learning plan covered six years. Drescher says the state wants to move toward a three-year period to better assess how rapidly technology needs change. This proposal would cover 2018-2021.

Vermont schools are trying to move toward more individualized learning, which uses video instruction, online courses and students working on their own and in smaller groups.

More and more work is being done through the cloud, and Drescher says schools need to make sure they have the connectivity to support the emerging platforms.

"You can walk down a hallway and find only two teachers out of 10 who are using technology in their classrooms. It's a serious equity issue at schools, and we can't have that anymore." — Peter Drescher, Vermont Agency of Education

He also says more Vermont teachers need to be trained in computer programming, from grade school right on up to high school.

"We have a lot of interest in that Hour of Code activity that happens in December and schools really want to push that and do more programming within other content areas," Drescher says. "But we don't really have anyway to train teachers in to how to understand that and do that. So, that's the deficit we have right now, is having some kind of program that allows them to get that training."

According to the plan the state wants educators to more seamlessly use technology throughout the day, and it says administrators should recognize best practices and work to have them more widely used throughout Vermont schools.

The Agency of Education also wants all schools, but particularly middle and high schools, to use technology anytime personalized training is being offered to students.

The state is collecting comments on the draft plan through the end of September and hopes to issue a final plan before November 1. As part of the new state plan, each supervisory union will be asked to put together its own local three-year plan, which will be due to the Agency of Education June 30, 2018.

Howard Weiss-Tisman is Vermont Public’s southern Vermont reporter, but sometimes the story takes him to other parts of the state.
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