Technology a top Common Core concern for Mississippi school district leaders

lwalck@sunherald.comJuly 16, 2014 

Common Core is coming, like it or not, to Mississippi school districts next month.

District leaders heard solutions and strategies for implementing it Wednesday during the Mississippi Association of Superintendents' annual conference at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi.

Concerns over technology dominated the conversation, from devices to bandwidth to software, but most were concerned about districts' infrastructure.

"I'm really concerned that we're putting teachers and students in a bad situation," said Charles Harrison of The Excellence Group, which does educational consulting.

Common Core heavily integrates technology in all areas of learning, with the goal of getting students ready for an increasingly technological world. But Mississippi is one of the nation's least-connected states, and this year earned an F on a digital report card by Digital Learning Now, an education policy group.

"The bandwidth conversation has to happen immediately," said Todd English, superintendent of the Booneville School District.

There is a misconception that schools' technology only has to be adequate for online tests, he said, but much more bandwidth is required for the goal of one hour of technology-based learning per student per day.

"The best resources out there use technology," he said.

Larry Gressett of The Excellence Group, former technology director at Newton County School District, said the state Department of Education and the Federal Communications Commission's E-Rate program are helping schools get connected.

"You've got to have the backbone that the wireless can connect to," he said.

On Friday, the FCC voted to reconfigure the program to allow funding for wireless technology, but not at the expense of connecting schools still trying to get broadband.

Moss Point Superintendent Maggie Griffin said teachers also were concerned about learning new technology, and talked about strategies for professional development.

"Teachers are the cornerstone," she said, and they should get targeted help based on the wide range of their skill levels with computers.

"If we don't allow teachers to be part of that process, they're not going to have ownership."

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