South City students to reap benefits of 21st-century technology

Future students at South San Francisco schools may watch lessons from home, go on virtual field trips to museums and have video conferences with book authors when the school district completes its two-year technology update.

The South San Francisco Unified School District’s $2.1 million project will bring in VoIP telephones, new computers and high-speed connectivity that will offer students modern-day capabilities and streamline operations in all its 16 schools.

“Our switches are old and outdated and slow — the 21st century classroom needs to have broadband access, that’s where instruction in 21st century is going,” said district Director of Technology Susan Mahony. “With a more reliable and faster network, you can deliver better educational resources to the classroom, and we can reduce costs in terms of technical support because it will be centralized.”

Mahony said the overhaul could lead to offering online courses to middle school and high school students, broadcasting classroom to students who are at home, giving virtual museum or travel tours to elementary students, meeting a book author through a video conference and creating an online video library.

Some teachers in the district are already seeing the benefits of going high-tech. Parkway Middle School’s Dan DiCamillo began using a projector and Internet-enabled computer earlier this year to teach his eighth-grade English class using educational Web sites and even videos on YouTube. He said using the computer made his job much easier — he stopped using an overhead projector that blurred his writing and has little need for the whiteboard.

“I’m a younger teacher and 90 percent of what I do is computer-based instruction,” DiCamillo said. “It’s more effective if you’re facing your students and you have something prewritten, so you have access to it at all times. It saves time and it’s much more efficient.”

According to district Superintendent Barbara Olds, faster connections and better computers will not only bring opportunities to do video conferencing and online courses, but help with existing projects such as a Web-based literacy program in middle schools and high school exit exam training.

“Once they graduate from high school, they are going to need to know computers and technology,” Olds said. “We need to make sure we have those tools for students whether they be in the third grade or they are seniors at high school.”

VoIP phones, which will be installed by Cisco, will help improve the accessibility of school staff to parents, said Naz Zabaneh of Cisco.

svasilyuk@examiner.com

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