As students, parents and staff prepare for the transition back to school, The Sun sat down with Deptford Township School District Superintendent Arthur Dietz and administrators to discuss what residents can expect for the 2019-2020 school year.
Dietz was joined by administration and curriculum members Chief Technology Officer Allison Lear, grade K-5 Instructional Supervisor Tiffany Bradley, grade 6-12 ELA and Social Studies Instructional Supervisor Danielle Lehman and grade 6-12 Math and Science Instructional Supervisor Valerie Gambale. Many things were discussed, but what administrators seemed most excited about was new technology that is aimed to help communication and educational resources.
The district is giving more than 900 new Chromebooks to its students for the school year. Over the past two years, the district has tripled the number of Chromebook devices. Last year, the district bought 1,500 new devices, according to Coordinator of Communications Lou Randazzo. He presumed that around 75 percent of the district’s roughly 4,000 students are equipped with some sort of a device.
Although not every student in the district has a device, the district is working its way down from the high school level. This year, it will focus on sixth-graders, according to Lear.
That’s not the only new tech students will see. The district is actively moving away from Smart Boards to Promethean Boards within its classrooms, an interactive board that acts as an all-in-one touchscreen computer, chalkboard and multi-media screen. Ten new Promethean Board devices will be implemented for the new school year. The district started purchasing them last year.
The district’s updates in technology devices are met with updates in its software.
The district will continue its second year of testing Canvas, a learning management software system that started within the post-secondary education levels. This upcoming school year, the district will be giving access to the software to all of its teachers. The software acts as a hub for all of the district’s educational technology resources. Students are able to sign on through their Chromebooks, allowing them to access all of the school’s educational resources online, along with classroom lessons.
According to Dietz, the software allows all of a student’s data to be in one source, including a monthly calendar with all of their classes and assignments.
“As a parent, if you have children across the district you can look at one place, one webpage, and you can pull up all their classes in one place,” said Dietz.
Something new the district is trying in terms of communication is the web conference tool. The tool is something teachers will be experimenting with during the year. Teachers, parents and students will be able to meet and check-in virtually through the web conference tool that Canvas provides.
Last year, the software was tested in each section of the district, including early childhood, elementary, middle and high school to see how it would be implemented throughout Deptford’s schools.
As of the new school year, every teacher now has access so they can begin to develop their lessons within the software. The district will continue to test the software throughout the year.