First in a series examining the use of technology in local schools.
The question of how many children is too many for one teacher to handle has always been a contentious one. Some experts say that there should be no more than 25 students in a middle-school classroom, while others argue that a good teacher can handle as many as 40.
At the Oceanside Middle School, that question has become largely moot, because the new student-teacher ratio will be 1:1, at least in virtual terms, with every student interacting with the teacher and his or her fellow students through technology.
“You can’t ignore the technology that the students use in their everyday lives and not bring that technology to the classroom,” said Robert Fenter, the Oceanside district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. “By using the iPad technology in the classroom, we have been able to encourage kids to own their learning, to have a stake in what is going on in their learning beyond what the teacher is saying. In fact, through the use of the iPads, students are learning from teachers, from their fellow students and from a myriad of sources. And the teachers are learning from the students.
“The teachers are still the most important resource in the room,” Fenter added. “The technology is a resource for the teacher to use with his or her students. Technology has become a powerful medium in the schools. In many ways, the technology liberates the teacher to work with individual students.”
Robin Britt, a personalized learning environmental facilitator, or PLEF, said in a New York Times Magazine story, “The key is breaking free of the mass-production model, tailoring the curriculum to the student and redesigning it around proven competence rather than accrued face time, so that each student can learn at his or her own pace. Now, the teacher is no longer the bottleneck between student and knowledge. Rather, the teacher is the architect of the environment — in the classroom, on the tablet, online, everywhere.”