Following parent protests, Eanes ISD analyzes the thoughtful use of technology

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The thoughtful use of technology has been a topic of frequent discussion at Eanes ISD following parent protests regarding the district’s iPad program. The objections to the program are in reaction to a first grader who was able to access lewd images while using the device.

The district uses its iPad program to manage classrooms and further introduce learning materials, and
the board of trustees continued the discussion on how to regulate the use of technology within the classroom during an Aug. 27 regular meeting.

Eanes ISD defines the thoughtful use of technology as “the intentional, purposeful integration of developmentally appropriate digital tools, materials and knowledge used to enhance student engagement and learning for everyone in our learning community.”

Kristy Sailors, the director of instructional technology, presented the board with the results of a focus group of 18 EISD teachers who analyzed how students could benefit from the addition of technological tools on the iPads.

“We had a group of elementary teachers that got together as a focus group to reflect on our practices,” Sailors said.

Staff emphasized the importance of protecting student’s data, providing a safe digital learning environment, designing a balanced experience, building focus and teaching 21st century critical thinking skills.

The technology tools used by the district build upon students’ problem-solving skills as well as creativity, according to the presentation.

EISD teachers Katie Poole and Amy Puga provided the board with a demonstration of how they use technology, such as the application Google Classroom, as instructional tools.

“It’s a safe structure for the students to interact and engage with the assignments and with each other,” Sailors said, adding the teachers use Google Classroom to reinforce the learning material.

Poole said she posts the learning material online, aiding students who may have missed school or who require additional practice. The application also allows students to collaborate with each other and share problem-solving strategies through the comment section.

Parent Megan Edwards presented her concerns regarding the district’s use of technology, saying while she appreciates the focus group, she wishes to opt out of the program. Her child accessed inappropriate images using the iPad provided by the district.

“I simply wish that my 6 year old did not have to come across pornography while under your watch,” Edwards said, adding the district needed to earn back her trust.

Edwards said she was concerned about the data protection of her children and the district’s ability to prevent Google or Apple from collecting and consequently selling the data.

Though no official decision was made, the district will continue to evaluate the thoughtful and purposeful use of technology within the classroom.

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