Thursday, August 01, 2019

Student And Parents Tell Oconee County Board Of Education That Use Of Computers In Classroom Instruction Is Excessive

***Ask For Return Of Paper, Pencils And Books***

Fred Reifsteck IV, who next week will be a seventh grader at Oconee County Middle School, does not like the policy of the Oconee County Board of Education that fully integrates Chromebook computers into classroom instruction.

“I would rather use books and paper and not Chromebooks,” Reifsteck told the members of the Board at their regular meeting on Monday.

Reifsteck was the first of three citizens who opted to speak to the Board on Monday, and each used the three minutes allocated to them to oppose the current level of use of the laptop computers in the school system’s instruction.

Julie Mauck, who has three children in Oconee County schools, said not all children learn the same way, and those children who do not learn well from the Chromebooks should have options.

Joyce Reifsteck, Fred’s mother, said research indicates that the amount of time a child spends looking at a computer screen is correlated with a number of negative outcomes, including increased aggression, depression, and anxiety.

She asked the Board to consider that research in evaluating the policy of using Chromebooks so extensively at the school.

As is the custom, Board members did not respond to the comments of the three speakers at the meeting. The Board has a policy of providing a Chromebook to every student in the school system.

In other action at a relatively brief meeting, the Board adopted modifications to its just-completed Fiscal Year 2018-2019 budget reflecting $3.8 million in increased revenue and heard that the Oconee County School System has been rated Number 1 in the state by the web site SchoolDigger.

Comments Of Seventh Grader

Fred Reifsteck was blunt in his comments to the Board.

Fred Reifsteck, Board Member Tim Burgess

“I don’t like to use Chromebooks in school,” he said, reading from a prepared statement that his mother told me later he wrote himself.

“A long time ago, when I was in 2nd grade,” he continued, “there was one typing class for one day, and I never learned how to type. I tried some typing videos at home, but I still have trouble typing, and typing takes me a really long time.

“I always used pencils and paper in my first 6 years of school,” Fred Reifsteck said, “but then, when we started using Chromebooks, I started to have lots of trouble typing.”

Fred Reifsteck said teachers sometimes give students the option of going outside or staying in the classroom to “play on the Cromebooks.”

“I really wanted to go outside, and a few other people did, too,” he said. “But most people wanted to play on the Chromebooks, so we stayed inside.”

Access To Mature Games

Fred Reifsteck also said that children use the Chromebooks to access “the unblocked games website to play mature games.”

“So even though the schools say the Chromebooks are filtered, they are not,” Fred Reichsteck said.

“The amount of time we spend on Chromebooks at school is more screen time than a child should get on a computer,” Fred Reifsteck said.

“In conclusion, I want to say that kids who like the Chromebooks should get to use them,” Fred Reifsteck said, “and kids who don’t want to should not be forced to.”

“Thank you for allowing me to speak, and for listening to me,” the seventh grader said in closing.

Board Chair Tom Odom asked Fred Reifsteck if he could provide a copy of his comments, and Reifsteck provided Odom a copy–cleanly typed.

Comments of Mauck

Mauck followed Fred Reifsteck to the podium and said “following Fred--that’s tough.”

Mauck,, Board Members Wayne Bagley, Tim Burgess

Mauck said use of “too much technology in the classroom is negatively affecting our children.”

“It is more of a distraction,” she said. “Pens, papers and textbooks are just better for a learning environment for our kids.”

Mauck said she had turned back to the schools a Chromebook this year for one of her children “because she had access to areas on the Internet that we don’t normally allow her to have access to, and it became a problem in our home.”

That decision, howerer, “cut her out of the education process because all of the books are online,” Mauck said.

“Kids who learn well that way and want to use Chromebooks, I think that is fantastic for them,” Mauck said. “But it is not true of all kids. So I would like there to be an option for those kids who do not learn very well that way.”

Comments of Joyce Reifsteck

“Myriad professional associations have published over 200 peer-reviewed studies that point to screen time correlating to increased ADHD, screen addiction, increased aggression, depression, anxiety, and even psychosis,” Joyce Reifsteck told the Board.

Joyce Reifsteck With Board Member Tim Burgess

“So we know that screen addiction is real,” she said, and physicians are recommending that parents limit screen time of their children.”

“But based on what my son had in school last year on the Chromebooks,” Joyce Reifsteck said, “he surpassed his recommended daily allotment for screen time every single day he was in school.”

“Even the lessons themselves look like games,” Reifsteck said.

Reifsteck said there is evidence that the constant stimulation associated with computer use is harmful to children's mental systems.

“Please consider that we could be really seriously damaging our children’s brains with all of this screen time, this zealous introduction of screens to really, really young children who shouldn’t really have any screen time at all at those ages,” Reifsteck told the Board.

Budget Amendment

Before the citizen comments, Oconee County Schools Chief Financial Officer Saranna Charping asked the Board to approve an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2018-2019 Budget, which ended on June 30, to accommodate an increase of $3.8 million in revenue over projections.

The budget presented to the Board shows $785,000 in state QBE (Quality Basic Education) funding above projections, reflecting, as Charping noted, increased enrollment in the school system.

The budget also shows $1,790,000 in Ad Valorem, Intangible and Transfer Taxes, and Title Taxes above projections.

The budget amendment also shifts $690,000 in the expenditure column from Direct Instruction to Student Transportation Services to cover the ongoing retrofitting of school buses with air conditioning.

The Board approved the amended budget unanimously.

School Ranking

At the beginning of the meeting, Anisa Sullivan Jimenez, director of Communications for Oconee County Schools, congratulated the Board for its ranking based on the July 26 release of the state Milestones, End of Grade and End of Course assessment results.

Jimenez had sent out a news release on Monday morning stating that “Oconee County Schools’ Milestones, End of Grade, and End of Course assessment results have placed OCS as the #1 school system in the state of Georgia.”

Jimenez explained to me in an email exchange following that news release that the ranking was by SchoolDigger, based on the release of the state data.

“On each of the 23 assessments for the 2018-19 school year, OCS had an average well above that of the state of Georgia,” the news release stated.

SchoolDigger rates elementary schools, middle schools and high schools in the state. It also gives school systems in the state an overall rating for the 2018-2019 school year.

Oconee County is ranked just above Buford City in Gwinnett County, with Oconee County getting a score of .946 and Buford City getting a score of .945.

Last year, Buford City was ranked number 1, and Oconee County number 2., according to its website, is a service of Claarware LLC. The web site states that Claarware LLC is a one-person software development shop, founded in 2006 by Pete Claar.


The video below is of the July 29 regular session of the Board of Education.

Jimenez made her announcement of the SchoolDigger rating at 3:25 in the video.

Charping began her report at 5:23 in the video.

Public Communication begins at 17:56 in the video, and Fred Reifsteck began speaking at 19:15.

He is followed by Mauck and then Joyce Reifsteck.


Anonymous said...

Oh NO!!!, The technology is coming! The technology is coming!

Anonymous said...

While it's possible they don't mean it to come across this way, the argument against chromebooks truly seem to come from a place of privilege. I, for one, am very glad that ALL children (regardless of class, race, family income, etc) will have access to the same technology at home as at school. While it won't completely even the playing field, it will certainly go a long way. Excellent job, OC.

Earl McCorkle said...

All we need is a number 2 pencil and a blue horse notebook to compete with the rest of the world!

William Mayberry said...

The negative effects of screens in the brains of everyone, especially within the rapidly growing brain circuits in young people, is well known and documented.
The physical hardware and the various software programs du jour are for sale, bought and sold. I have at least one true story of a program purchased by a school system next door being sold by a family member. It was trash, eventually bringing plagiarism charges to the seller.
The "place of privilege" complaint is ludicrous, far from real concerns.

Anonymous said...

What was Mayberry saying? Does he know ?