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FCPS Logs On To Digital Age

Implementation of new online resources sparks controversy.

By Riley Bannon, Editor in Chief, The Em Vee Hi

Fairfax County has incorporated new technology into schools this year, including Google Apps for Education, and online textbooks. The change has been brought concerns from teachers, students, and parents alike and all sides are waiting to see if the online resources will pay off.

The county began phasing in online textbooks in 2010, with social studies textbooks for 18 schools, which were then implemented for all students from grade 7 to grade 12. This school year, all math courses were given online textbooks for all grades K through 12. New to the school system this year as well is the Google Apps program. The program is, according to the FCPS website, free to the county, unlike pricey digital textbooks.

Google Apps includes email, chat, and document creators that allow students and teachers to work together from anywhere on assignments, with complete security.

“Google Apps allows students to access work from any electronic device from anywhere,” government teacher Virginia Harris said. “Multiple people can work on the same document, and it’s so much easier to grade without having to read kids’ bad hand writing!”

While many teachers are welcoming the utilization of the new programs, the change is much harder for students.

“I don’t think it’s fair because it’s too much of a sudden change, and a lot of kids don’t have computers at home,” senior Sonia Francone said.

While most students have computer access at home, many others don’t and now have to utilize the school or public library to complete everyday assignments. Others who do have computers at home find that going online to get work done creates way too many distractions.

“Online textbooks make it so much more difficult to find information,” sophomore Savion Powell said. “There are so many distractions online, and I just end up on Twitter.”

Many parents are also on the fence on whether or not online resources are as advantageous as the county hoped they would be.

“I like the idea that teachers are using the advantages of the World Wide Web,” sophomore Maggie Heltzel’s mother, Lori Heltzel said. “However is the additional stress on families that cannot provide their children an internet connection at home worth it? They could use the library after school, but they have other responsibilities. Not all kids walk around with an iPhone in their back pocket.”

Whether online resources are going to pay off in the end remains to be seen, as is the impact technology will have on the future of the county.

Editor's Note: These articles are written by Mount Vernon High School student reporters for The Em Vee Hi, the school newspaper. These articles are running on Mount Vernon Patch as part of a partnership between Mount Vernon Patch and the journalism class at MVHS.

Huey January 02, 2013 at 11:02 AM
Online textbooks are annoying because they run on flash. If it was HTML, it wouldn't be as complicated, but flash uses the computer's RAM which basically gets deleted once you don't have it up anymore/click out of it so if anything happens, you can't simply press the back button to go back and look for an answer. You have to go through a process. For example, to go back a page after you exited a chapter, you have to go through the whole chapter. It's not as easy as opening the page and relooking for it/bookmarking. Then again, I'm a bit old fashioned.
Therese Tuley January 03, 2013 at 07:37 PM
This is not a question of being old-fashioned; rather it's a question of a poorly-thought out and implemented roll out of a new program. Superintendent Jack Dale himself has been quoted as saying as much. It is to be hoped that the School Board members will direct staff to more carefully choose the next program by thoroughly engaging teachers, students, parents and other stakeholders in the decision-making process. In a related move, Delegate Scott Surovel-44th district will introduce legislation to prohibit the use of online textbooks unless a school system can show they’ve taken steps to ensure that every child has home access to broadband and a home computer.

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