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Board gets report on digital curriculum

Brian Rauvola, chairman of the Digital Device Initiative Committee (DDIC), presented the findings of the committee to the Lake Superior School District Board at its meeting Tuesday in Silver Bay.

The DDIC has studied the possibility of creating a digital curriculum in LSSD either by creating a one-to-one ratio of students to digital devices or a "one-to-cart" ratio where each teacher in the district has a set of devices in their classrooms. In the one-to-one scenario, students would be assigned a device at the beginning of the school year and would use it in all classes. In the one-to-cart situation teachers would have classroom sets that students could use during class, but would not be able to take home with them.

A digital curriculum contained in a single device like an iPad or other tablet has some advantages. A student who is absent from class can have assignments or course content digitally delivered to them before returning to class or even on a snow day. In addition, updates or corrections to the curriculum would be available immediately instead of teachers waiting for the purchase of new textbooks and curriculum for information to be updated.

On the other hand, Rauvola said the research available is inconclusive as to whether a digital curriculum or a blended one using aspects of both a digital and traditional curriculum have a positive impact on student performance.

"The committee could not find any real strong research that said a digital curriculum or a blended curriculum could positively affect student performance," he said. "Some said yes, some said a little, some said not really, it was really across the board."

Another issue for the group was choosing the type of device. LSSD teachers tested Google Chromebooks in fall 2016 and found that the laptop-style devices were good from some scenarios, but was not ideal in all. iPads or Android tablet devices allow students to more easily take pictures or video, however, laptops seem more appropriate for upper level science or engineering courses.

The DDIC also found digital curriculums worked better in some subjects like English and social studies than math or science classes. Rauvola, a science teacher at Two Harbors High School, said the digital science curriculums aren't as robust as some of the comparable English or social studies curriculums.

The biggest drawback to digital devices and curriculums, however is cost. The DDIC estimated the program would cost the district $150,000 per year to maintain and there would be even larger upfront costs.

"That was, in our view, a little bit out of our realm at the moment," Rauvola said. "Unless we have a big influx of funding that can be obtained, we don't recommend that we go for a one-to-one or one-to-cart scenario at this time."

The DDIC also made several recommendations to the board of conditions that are needed before the district implements a digital curriculum. First, network access issues, like students being unable to logon or getting kicked off the network at random times, must be completely resolved. In addition, most or all teachers and administrators need to be completely invested in the digital system and funds are available to implement the system correctly, including staff training. Finally, the device selected needs to be robust with a keyboard option and interactive screen, while also running efficiently and is available within the budget constraints.

Board approves assistant coach for Silver Bay track

Silver Bay track coach Rick Frericks came to the board to request the hire of an assistant coach for the Mariner track team. The team has had more than 20 students participate the last several years and he now has kids interested in a broad array of events.

"It all boils down to I am unable to meet the needs of all my athletes right now," Frericks said. "Now with my numbers, I've got people who are interested in all of the events and it's gotten to the point where I'm like a MASH surgeon, I just do the best I can and move on to the next person. It's at a point now where it's unfair to the kids who pay their participation fee and they're not getting the best coaching they should get."

Frericks also said it's an issue of safety for the students. He is coaching shot put, discus, triple jump, long jump, high jump, sprinters, hurdlers, relays as well as mid and long distance runners and he can't possibly monitor all the stations simultaneously.

In addition, he has a growing junior high program and if those students go to compete against those their own age, he has to cancel practice for the varsity team. An assistant coach would allow students to continue practicing in Silver Bay while one team travels to compete or even to practice with the more robust facilities in Two Harbors.

The board unanimously approved seeking an assistant coach and Frericks said he did have someone in mind to be the assistant coach, but they will have to go through the hiring process first.

Jamey Malcomb

Jamey Malcomb started as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle in August 2015. Malcomb is a native of North Carolina and holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from the George Washington University and a master's degree in education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Malcomb moved to Minnesota in July 2012 and previously worked as a sports clerk and news assistant at the Duluth News Tribune. He is the beat writer for the Lake County Board of Commissioners, Lake Superior School District board of education and high school sports in Lake County. 

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