Issue 8: Bond proposes shift from print to online

By Ashley Hocking

In recent months, the Lawrence Board of Education wrote a bond issue that will be voted on in April.

The bond issue proposes to spend $92.5 million dollars on enhancing technology, improving school facilities, expanding career and technical education opportunities and raising educational standards.

One component of the bond issue that would affect LHS students is a  proposed expansion of the cafeteria and black box theater.

Making way to replace hard textbooks with wireless e-textbooks in USD 497 classrooms during the next five years is another aspect of the bond proposal. The bond includes $6.5 million to implement recommendations from a technology audit.

“It supports the purchase of learning management software, which would enable the greater use of online textbooks and other digital resources in the classroom,” Julie Boyle, district communications director, said.

This means that vast amounts of new technology would be purchased for in-class use, such as iPads and SMARTBoards. In addition, fundamental technological framework, like wireless access points, switches and routers, would be implemented as well.

“The plan improves the district’s technology infrastructure to support greater depth of use of our school wireless networks,” Boyle said. “This supports greater flexibility, mobility and connectivity across all schools in the district and improves network security and disaster recovery.”

The school district is already implementing some of these technological improvements.

“The district is piloting this learning management system and the blended learning model in eight classrooms across the district,” Boyle said.

The potential switch from hard textbooks to e-textbooks for all students in the district could drastically change teaching methods and the way students learn.

Social studies teachers Jack Hood, David Platt and Matthew Herbert were interested in how students view the switch. They polled a handful of their classes to find out if students would like the change in technology.

The impromptu polls in these classrooms concluded that the majority of students preferred using hard textbooks over e-textbooks.

“My little sample poll usually showed one person per class was favorable of electronic textbook reading material,” Platt said.

Hood favors interactive and electronic reading material if it would add to the way the students learn by providing additional links, pictures and videos.

“Truthfully, this could be a really cool thing if they went to truly interactive textbooks,” Hood said. “If all they do is PDFs of the book, then it’s worthless — just give me the book. If you do interactive text though, that would be cool. There’s all kinds of things you could do if it was interactive. It’d be pretty neat, innovative and actually useful.”

A major concern of this aspect of the bond is the availability of the technology for all students.

“The working assumption is that everybody has access to that kind of technology where they have downloaded books,” Platt said. “Even if it’s in a checkout system, I think a lot of students would be worried [about] checking that stuff out because then they would be financially liable for the piece of technology as well.”

Another concern of the proposed plan was unexpected circumstances, such as technical difficulties.

“What if the internet goes down?” Hood asked.

The school bond will be on the April 2 ballot.

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