Technology has already changed the way children learn. Tablets and interactive whiteboards are a fixture in modern classrooms, as are online quizzes and virtual textbooks.
Now, technology could revolutionize the way parents interact with their child’s school.
Starting this year, some parents in Miami-Dade will be able to avoid the hassle of driving across the county every time there’s a parent-teacher meeting or their child gets an earache.
The Miami-Dade school district is rolling out an online tool that allows parents to participate in meetings with their child’s teacher without leaving the office or the living room sofa. This year the tool will be available for families with special needs or gifted children — who often have frequent meetings with school staff — at nine schools selected for the pilot program. In the future, it could be expanded to more locations.
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Sixty-two schools are also getting a virtual health program so parents don’t have to pull their kids out of school and take them to the doctor’s office. Instead, a representative from the program will conference in a doctor or a nurse, who can diagnose the student’s earache or sore throat via video conference and write a prescription or refer the student to a specialist.
“This will ensure that kids remain in school, this will ensure that kids get critical care at school without missing their studies,” said Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.
Tired of waiting in line at the start of every school year to fill out paperwork? There could be a digital fix for that, too. Starting next year, parents will be able to enroll their children in school online.
The technology isn’t just for parents. Miami-Dade also has plans to create a private online social network for teachers to chat with colleagues and share lesson plans. In the future, a teacher at one school could even live-stream another teacher’s lesson for her students to watch, said Chief Academic Officer Marie Izquierdo. District officials have been meeting with Facebook, which created the private social network — called Workplace — that the district hopes will be implemented over the coming school year.
These are just a few of the new initiatives the school district announced Wednesday at its annual school programs presentation. Others include an electronic badge young students can scan to log onto classroom computer programs without having to type in their password; an expanded mobile app for parents to keep track of school information; and free mobile devices and wireless internet service for 14,000 high school students courtesy of Sprint.
“I think this new school year will greet teachers, students and parents with absolutely novel and exciting technology,” Carvalho said.
The new programs are valued at approximately $160 million, but none of the money is coming from tax dollars, Carvalho said. Instead, grants, businesses and private donors are picking up the tab.
Miami-Dade also announced 77 new choice programs that will either be offered this year or are under development. The programs include both magnet schools open to anyone in the county and programs focused on a particular topic within a neighborhood school. They run the gamut from conservation biology to dance to animation.
Choice programs have become increasingly popular in recent years, with more than 65 percent of Miami-Dade public school students enrolled in some form of choice program, according to the district. The goal is to offer choice programs to all students by the year 2020, Carvalho said.
Of course, in some cases technology is no substitute for human interaction. The new offerings also include an expanded mentoring program for beginning teachers and an expanded school counseling program for students.