THREE-YEAR TECHNOLOGY PLAN SUPPORTS STUDENT LEARNING
The district's three-year technology plan lays out the steps toward meeting the technology goals the district has set for itself in its Long-Range Plan: linking students with learning opportunities wherever they may be, providing access to technology for every student and keeping current with industry standards that support 21st century learning.
Technology has become central to the learning process, explained District Technology Director Mike Wood, who presented the plan to the Board of Education at its April 8 meeting. "Technology skills are essential in school and in the job market. We would be doing our students a disservice if we did not prepare them with a high level of skills."
Over the next three years, the plan calls for providing each student with a mobile device on which they can access their work from school or home, moving from lab-based to learner-based access, migrating to "cloud" technology to reduce costs and improve access, and incorporating Apple or Mac technology to enhance opportunities in art, design and multi-media work. From a user perspective, students will be taught how to care for devices and be responsible users, how to keep safe in the digital world and how to be good digital citizens. Staff members will receive professional development that is aligned to their job needs and to the curriculum.
In order to meet the growing need for each student to have a device to use at school, the district will begin to look at how it could meld its own purchases with a "bring your own device" option for students who already own devices. Part of the motivation to provide more mobile devices is the new state tests that will replace the ISATs in 2014-2015. These tests will be online (as are the MAP and CogAT assessments) and will require significant device time. "Many of our tests are conducted online and we need to have the equipment to meet those demands," said Wood, adding "we also want to have technology available for instructional purposes during those testing windows."
Over the last five years, the district has made significant strides in technology, said Wood. It has purchased interactive learning software for students to use at home, established refresh cycles to keep technology hardware and software up to date without overwhelming costs in any given year, and installed SMART Boards and projectors in all large instructional spaces and trained teachers to use them. Less visible improvements are a new data warehouse and a new student data system, components that "talk to each other" and provide greater ability to access and use student achievement data to plan instruction, measure growth and meet each child's needs; upgraded Internet bandwidth and wireless capacity; updated desktops and mobile devices; improved infrastructure components; and an expanded school security system.
Technology needs have grown, and keeping costs in check is important, said Wood. The district saved $111,000 on its new printer lease by selecting a model that matches the most-used features, it has moved away from purchasing extended warranties in those cases where in-house support can manage most likely repairs, and it makes purchases through a consortium that provides optimal pricing for educational institutions.
At its April 29 meeting, the BOE will take action on components of the three-year plan: purchase of iPads for the elementary music program and technology purchases and improvements associated with the Hadley Library Media Center renovations that will occur over the summer. The LMC tech plans include replacing the basement Art Technology Lab with a new space adjacent to the LMC that offers Mac technology, creating a separate Mac lab for media creation, and increasing the number of handheld devices to be used for research, e-readers and project-based learning. Later this spring, the BOE will review 2013-2014 proposals for refreshing the elementary LMC technology and adding more mobile technology so that students in grades 4-8 will have one-to-one access. In future years, the BOE will consider proposals for moving toward a virtual server environment, full one-to-one access for students, replacing aging hardware such as the projectors associated with the Smart BOARDS and updating infrastructure components.
The three-year technology plan will allow the district to take advantage of emerging technologies, maintain an infrastructure that can accommodate multiple platforms, build greater operational efficiencies, and help make sure that students can engage with their learning beyond the school day regardless of the technology access they have or don't have at home.