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Editorial: Northampton moves to close gap on classroom technology

Angelo Rota, Northampton School Department's  Technology head, visits JFK Middle School on his daily rounds of the city's schools.

Angelo Rota, Northampton School Department's Technology head, visits JFK Middle School on his daily rounds of the city's schools. Purchase photo reprints »

Northampton schools have been behind the curve in terms of technology, but with a new technology director on board since August, the district is doing double time to catch up.

Certainly there is a long way to go in building and investing in the infrastructure that will help city schools keep up technologically. Having a reorganized information technology department focus on classrooms is a smart move.

Technology has been used for years to improve the way school districts like Northampton administer their duties, by streamlining grading, budgeting and all manner of paperwork.

Possibly the most promising use of technology involves new support for teaching. The city has lagged on that and is far from alone.

A significant number of teachers across the country report they don’t have adequate training or curriculum to use technology in the most effective ways.

Comfort with technology among teachers varies widely — and that can hold students back. That is why we think Angelo Rota, the city’s new director of innovative instruction and technology, is on the right track in helping teachers navigate terrain that was not part of their early training.

As a member of the Northampton schools’ newly reorganized five-person technology department, Rota is leading the charge to incorporate advances. Some of the changes are simple, and not particularly costly, but will help teachers more effectively reach students.

For example, under Rota’s guidance, city schools this year began using Google Apps for Education, a free Web-based system that most students know. It features email, calendar options and a writing and document system. Its use in the city’s schools will make it easier for teachers to work with students and collaborate with one another and for students to join in academic projects.

Of course, not everything is free, and soon the city will have to ante up. To that end, Rota helped develop a $300,000 long-term technology plan that aims to bring computer hardware, servers and wireless connections to all Northampton schools. The city has approved spending $100,000 on this, which means part of the plan will be funded and part will await another funding cycle.

Meanwhile, we think Rota’s focus on using technology to foster and enhance creativity in the classroom sets a good tone.

Doing right by veterans

The state Legislature should move ahead with a proposal to require all veterans service officers in the state to be certified to perform the important work they do. A bill under consideration would require all town or regional veterans service officers to undergo training and be tested.

Our veterans deserve to have advocates who know what they are doing, and can help them negotiate bureaucratic hoops that can stand in the way of benefits.

Our veterans gave their country their all. The least we can do is provide them with expert help when they get back home.

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