Education

Ballico-Cressey superintendent to participate in national digital learning summit

Ballico-Cressey School District Superintendent Bryan Ballenger
Ballico-Cressey School District Superintendent Bryan Ballenger

Bryan Ballenger, superintendent of the Ballico-Cressey School District, will join 99 other school leaders from across the country at the first National Connected Superintendents Summit at the White House on Wednesday.

The summit will recognize school officials who have helped transition their districts to digital learning. According to a Merced County Office of Education press release, the conference will bring these education leaders together to share promising approaches to using technology in classes.

The Ballico-Cressey School District converted to the digital curriculum three years ago.

All students, kindergarten through eighth grade, are given an electronic device, replacing the traditional approach of books and pencils. Kindergartners are provided Samsung Galaxy tablets. First- and second-graders are given Microsoft netbooks, and third- through eighth-graders use Chromebooks as their learning tool.

“We are in an era where everything is digital,” Ballenger told the Mered Sun-Star. “This is a way to provide our kids with the best, up-to-date education.”

“This is also an opportunity for our students to learn Internet safety,” he added. “By the time they get to high school, they’ll be further ahead of other children.”

According to the release, the White House summit will be followed by a series of 12 to 15 regional summits that will focus on the digital progress made by local school districts.

Ballenger, who arrived in Washington, D.C., on Monday, said teachers and students at the district have come a long way in adapting to the new method of learning. And while the process has not been challenge-free, putting a device in a child’s hand to be able to gain access to educational material at all times has been a game changer, he said.

All superintendents taking part in the summit were nominated, but Ballenger is not sure who nominated him.

“I just know this is a very cool thing to participate in,” Ballenger said. “I am very excited to see what this looks like for all kids.”

On Tuesday, Ballenger will meet with Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, to talk about the federal E-Rate program, which allows the district to get Verizon MiFi mobile wireless connection at a discounted price.

Ballenger explained that as of July 1, 2015, mobile data will no longer be available through the E-Rate program, which could really hurt students who live in rural, ag-based communities. “If it wasn’t for the MiFi, a lot of children wouldn’t have access to Internet at home,” he said.

Internet connection that is accessible to students 24/7, Ballenger said, is key in 21st-century education.

Sun-Star staff writer Ana B. Ibarra can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or aibarra@mercedsunstar.com.

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