The use of tablets and electronic textbooks is a potentially valuable development, but educators and administrators must proceed with caution, said Eleanor Tritt, the superintendent of the Amagansett School District, at a meeting of its school board Tuesday night.
Ms. Tritt cited articles on the topic, such as one on the Web site mashable.com, which surveys what it referred to as a concerted effort by the federal government, book publishers, and the technology industry to “push tablets into public schools.” She also mentioned an article in Education Week magazine that details the considerable influence of the textbook publisher Pearson, which is active in digital education.
In noting that teachers use Apple iPads in Amagansett classrooms, the superintendent said, “There needs to be more study on what applications are most efficient and effective, and we must be careful about making those judgments, rather than rely on the publishers’ self-interest.” She also told the board that “many applications can be replicated by hands-on material, but others capture students’ attention and focus.”
School administrators are evaluating the use of tablets and moving cautiously in their wider adoption, Ms. Tritt said, again citing concern that the federal government is pushing a broad transition from paper to tablets. Pearson has recently branched into teacher-preparation products, she reported, saying, “We feel the for-profit companies have undue influence.”
The board also discussed the state’s Dignity for All Students Act. The act “seeks to provide the state’s public elementary and secondary school students with a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, and bullying on school property, a school bus and/or at a school function,” according to the New York Education Department. The superintendent and members of the board voiced concern about what they said was the broad definition of bullying, which may also include “cyber bullying.” A firmer understanding of the behavior that constitutes bullying, and a school’s responsibilities and procedures in regard to it, are needed, board members said.
The board also approved the use of the school gymnasium by the East Hampton Town Recreation Department for youth basketball on Saturdays. The program will begin on Dec. 1 and end on or before March 2. Approval was made contingent on Amagansett students’ eligibility and participation.