Schools across the county will have wireless internet by the 2013-14 school year if the Montgomery County Council approves a $14.5 million addendum to the MCPS technology budget.
The Board of Education approved the plan Sept. 11 as part of a proposal from Superintendent Joshua Starr. The budget also includes funds for installing Promethean Boards in elementary school classrooms that don’t already have them.
Principal Alan Goodwin hopes the plan will allow the teachers to bring computers to the classrooms through the purchase of laptops stored on mobile carts. If the County Council approves the proposal, teachers could reserve enough laptop computers for their class instead of signing up for time in a computer lab.
“I’m very excited about the possibility of purchasing laptops, especially for the classes out in Whittier,” Goodwin said. “We used to have a computer lab out there that we dismantled because we needed the classroom space, so to have something like that would be wonderful.”
The upgrade would also allow physical education teachers to take greater advantage of the Apple iPad that the P.E. department purchased over the summer.
With the iPad, teachers can easily show kids how to perform a skill or workout. But the school’s concrete walls block 3G internet access, making it harder to run video clips, resource teacher Nancy Kull said. If Wi-Fi becomes available in school, P.E. teachers will be able to show videos and workout plans more effectively by plugging the iPad into the weightroom TV.
Pyle installed wireless internet as part of its 2008 construction. To take advantage of the upgrade, the school bought two mobile laptop carts, each with enough computers for an average-sized class.
While the wireless internet has allowed teachers to maximize technology in the classroom, the Wi-Fi system only grants access to MCPS devices, restricting students from connecting with their personal electronics.
“I’ve got kids who have apps on their phone or their iPad that function as graphic organizers or some other thing that they want to use that they can’t,” principal Jennifer Webster said. “It’s frustrating because if they find a technology that they use at home, I’d like them to be able to use it here.”
The budget proposal still has to pass through the County Council, a process that could take time to complete, since the proposal affects future fiscal year budgets five years into the future, Senior Legislative Analyst Essie McGuire said.
Goodwin believes MCPS should continue updating schools’ technology because kids will be using it for the rest of their lives, he said.
“I am an English teacher by training, so I prefer the written word,” he said. “However, the business world and the university world are using more and more technology, so we have an obligation to prepare our kids for their future.”