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Guest column

Every now and then, I hear from people who believe our students need to “return to the basics.” In some conversations, this means an emphasis on core curricular areas such as reading, writing, and arithmetic. In other conversations, it is the belief that our students do not need technology — that we need to return to the era of paper and pencil. Conversely, there are people who want our district to embrace technology to such a degree that it would replace teachers and support staff.

While we must not lose sight of our responsibility to teach core skills, we must help our students navigate a world in which “digital literacy” has become an essential skill. This world is one in which students not only can locate and organize information but they can also evaluate and understand that information more effectively through the use of various technological devices. The opportunities are endless as to how to best leverage technology to improve student achievement in these areas as well provide additional and specific training and experience in technology to prepare our students to compete in a global economy.

Our responsibility in Brainerd Public Schools is to maximize available tools and resources to ensure each and every student has the opportunity to be a modern-day leader, innovator, entrepreneur, thinker, or creator. As one of the key priorities of our district’s community-driven long-range plan reads, “We will increase effective and meaningful use of technology in all learning environments and throughout our organization while staying current with rapidly changing systems and products.” Just as we have made great strides in other priority areas, our school district is seeking to meet the tenets of this goal by investing wisely in supporting wireless technology across our district.

Many students, for instance, are already bringing to school very powerful computers in the form of cell phones. Starting soon, instead of telling students to turn off their phones and put them away, we will be asking them to turn them on and take them out. As we continue integrating technology to be “a part of” rather than “a part from” our instruction, we know there will be new opportunities to enhance student learning — and we’re getting ready by taking the first step by increasing our wireless connection capacity.

Meaningful and successful implementation of current technology is a building process. The expansion of the wireless connection in our buildings to nearly three times the current level is the first step to supporting an ever- expanding use. Next, we will clearly define a comprehensive plan and policy for the appropriate use of personal devices such smart phones and tablets. As we delve into this important process of developing, implementing, and training our students and staff we must remain mindful of how the technology integration will ultimately impact classroom instruction.

Yet at the end of the day, technology is not a replacement for a comprehensive educational experience, which includes academics, activities, and the opportunity to build social skills through lasting relationships. Instead, technology is a supplemental tool in delivering quality instruction and support from the highly qualified, experienced, and caring people in our schools.

STEVE RAZIDLO is superintendent of the Brainerd School District.