How Fraser schools help children embrace technology

Dave Richards

Technology is the backbone of 21st century life. That’s why our schools are working hard to integrating technology into our children’s classrooms.

One of the most far-reaching things any community can do is to embrace technology and then collaborate at all levels to make sure that our kids get the right kind of technology, use it safely and appropriately, and engage in it in ways that can help them learn and succeed.

I’m proud that our community, Fraser, made such a leap.

In 2011, at the height of the Great Recession, Fraser, a community of working families, voted to approve a technology bond proposal, in spite of job losses, home foreclosures and other economic challenges that hit our community especially hard.

To this day, I still hear parents tell me they supported this millage because they wanted their children to get the resources and support they need to compete in a global, tech-savvy world.

Four years later, with more than 5,000 iPads deployed, we are seeing results in Fraser.

Our kids are not only better learners, they are also more creative ones. They are using technology to find innovative solutions to problems they encounter in their lessons. More than 95 percent of Fraser parents say their kids are getting an “excellent” education, according to a 2013-2014 district survey.

As educators, what impresses us is that our kids are owning their learning, and learning in ways that work best for each individual student.

Our community made this decision because we recognize that years from now, our schools will see a vastly different educational system.

Those districts that have out-maneuvered obsolescence by using technology and rethinking how they deliver learning are going to be the ones that not only survive — they’ll be the ones thriving.

Fraser schools’ incorporation of technology goes deeper than just providing students with access to devices. We want today’s students to have a complete educational framework that will prepare them to be successful in today’s college and work environments.

That’s one of the reasons we collaborated with a broad range of stakeholders — teachers, staff, parents, tech experts — for nearly a year to make sure our technology-based curriculum works for our kids and can help all of us reach our goals. Society demands today’s students have skills vastly different than we once thought sufficient.

Students should leave their K-12 educational experience as critical thinkers, communicators, creators and collaborators — and that’s what our educational framework, including our iPad and technology program, aims to achieve.

Fraser adopted our technology initiative recognizing that consistent, reliable funding has been one of our biggest challenges in Michigan.

Despite the support of our community that will keep our technology initiative running for years, we — in fact, all districts — must always think of sustainability.

Michigan must find a way to help local school districts better control our destinies. Communities are innovating in remarkable ways, and they’re doing this in spite of budget cuts that have directly affected classroom resources.

How do we equip every school, in Fraser and across Michigan, to allow them to move forward with a 21st-century vision for our kids?

If we don’t resolve this issue, Michigan will see a growing gap among school districts of have and have nots: those who are fortunate enough to pass a bond issue and those who aren’t.

Our kids in Fraser have the devices, the exposure and the opportunities that technology gives them.Too many kids in other districts don’t.

That’s not fair — and we believe Michigan can find a better way.

Dave Richards is superintendent of Fraser Public Schools.

See for yourself

To hear and see how Fraser Public Schools’ technology program is benefitting kids, go to www.tricountyalliance.org/itsaboutkids, and go to the most recent video vignette.