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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on August 27th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 25 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 14, Issue 25

Santa Maria educators discuss the pros and cons of having 'smart' technology in the classroom


Recent reports of students using their “smart” phones during Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) tests has prompted local educators to enforce stronger technology policies in the classroom.

Several Central Coast high schools made headlines earlier this month when the California Department of Education flagged their standardized test results because students posted test-related photos on social media websites.

The department identified 242 schools at which social media postings occurred during Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) assessments administered last spring. According to the department, most of those posts were benign, featuring pictures of test booklets and other materials. Only 16 schools had postings of test questions or answers.

A student at Righetti High School posted a picture of a test question, but an investigation into the matter revealed she did so because “her name was in a word question and she thought that was cool,” said John Davis, assistant superintendent of curriculum for the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District.

Nonetheless, the district is taking precautions to deter cheating via text, Tweet, or Instagram.

“All campuses this year have a check-in policy during testing,” Davis said.

That means that during a test, students have to keep their phones in their backpacks and put their backpacks at the front of the classroom.

Prior to the incident in the spring, many district teachers already had no-phone policies in their classrooms.

“Now it’s on paper,” Davis said.

Other local high schools have similar policies as well. At St. Joseph High School in Orcutt, the rule states students can have phones, but the devices can’t be out in public.

“If we hear them or we see them, we take them,” said Ray Vazquez, the school’s assistant principal and dean of students.

Students are given a warning on the first infraction; their phones are taken away and they have to pick them up at the end of the day. The second time it happens, students get detention and their parents have to pick up their phones for them.

Vazquez said there haven’t been any instances of students using their smart phones to cheat.

“I’m not saying it doesn’t happen; I’m just saying we haven’t seen it. We’re not perfect; we have kids who cheat,” he said, adding that the school has a strict policy against cheating.

Of course, having smart phones and other smart technology in the classroom isn’t all bad. Many schools are using this state-of-the-art hardware and software to help their students prepare for the 21st century.

St. Joe’s principal Joanne Poloni is currently training her staff to use iPads, which the school received a year and a half ago through a donation. She said an Apple representative visited the campus earlier this month to teach the teachers about Numbers, Pages, and Keynotes (that’s Excel, Word, and Powerpoint equivalents for Microsoft Office types out there).

Eventually, the students will get to use iPads, too, for project-based learning. She said the school is currently developing its wireless Internet system to support 600 people.

“I prefer books in terms of reading, but our kids prefer [smart technology],” assistant principal Vazquez said. “They’re really comfortable using their fingers to highlight things and to turn pages. I think we’re the ones who need to change.”

Righetti High School principal Steve Molina said all of his math teachers have iPads. They use them in conjunction with LCD projectors and SMART boards, which are interactive and can be written on with electronic pens or just a finger.

The school is also implementing new software called Naviance, which helps students keep track of their goals for college and the workplace, as well as coursework and information about applying to colleges and for scholarships.

Righetti will be host to a six-week college boot camp course beginning Sept. 4 to be held during “zero” period at 7:30 a.m.

For more information, call the school at 


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