By andrei Blakely
ANNAPOLIS – At the beginning of each school year, Donna M. Zavacky, a third-grade teacher at Ring Factory Elementary School in Bel Air, videotapes her students, capturing their cautious entrances and critiquing their work. Later the students see the video and learn how much they’ve improved.
It’s a technique that has helped Zavacky become one of seven semi-finalists in the state Teacher of the Year program, to be decided in October.
Not every Maryland school has the same access to technology – whether televisions or Web sites – a problem that highlights the lack of a statewide technology policy. As the Internet is being wired into schools throughout the state, television use – a valuable teaching tool and a possible supplement for scarce teachers – is being overlooked.
“It (videotaping students) is something that with technology we are hoping will grow in the future,” she said.
The prospect of immediate growth in such programs as the one used by Zavacky is dim considering the limited resources in the budgets of many school jurisdictions.
“We are working to improve the quality of the (technology) program and increase the access of disadvantaged students to the Internet,” said Ronald A. Peiffer, assistant superintendent of schools. “The issue is that (fixing) the divide cannot be looked at as a silver bullet.”
The state has been working for several years to improve technology in schools, he said.
The immediate technology goals of the State Department of Education focus on the Internet and do not involve the enhancement of television programs. “We do have a digital divide in Maryland,” said June Streckfus, director of the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education. “As far as a child’s learning some do have access and some do not.”
A roundtable technology report, completed in January, found that an average of 69 percent of classrooms statewide have television reception. Prince George’s County has 80 percent of classrooms with television reception, while in Montgomery County the figure is 93 percent.
Television technology may become more necessary as the shortage of qualified teachers in Maryland grows.
The Maryland State Department of Education will release figures Tuesday showing Maryland will need more than 10,000 teachers next year, up from 7,000 this year, said Neil Greenberger, State Department of Education spokesman.
Television can spread teacher expertise in specialized subjects much wider than live classrooms.
In Prince George’s County, the Bonnie F. Johns Educational Media Center uses cable access programs to teach selected students’ foreign languages in different locations through a program called distance learning.
The center broadcasts courses on languages, such as German, Italian, Japanese and Russian, that are difficult to find faculty to teach. The center also provides courses in special Advanced Placement subjects.
“There is a definite need for it,” said Barbara Noll, television specialist at the Bonnie F. Johns Media Center. “Our system is so large that there is an inequity. There are a limited number of teachers. We do so much with this distance learning.”
Other counties that have uncertified teachers use videotaped courses in conjunction with local colleges to train faculty. -30- CNS-09-22-00