As the district planned for the voted Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) in 2012, one of the driving goals was to establish a technology baseline throughout the district. At that time, fewer than half of our classrooms had mounted projectors, and less than 20% had interactive whiteboard devices and document cameras. The average age of computers was over 8 years, and our network hadn’t been significantly upgraded for a decade.
Thanks to the voters’ approval of PPEL, we have been able to invest roughly $1.1 million dollars in technology improvements in the past year and a half. That said, we’ve just begun our journey towards becoming a technologically innovative school district. Significant research has shown that at least a seven-year commitment – through training and resource expansion – is required to fully realize the potential of a major paradigm shift in terms of technology. We have taken the first step in modernizing and standardizing basic technology equipment; the question is, what’s next?
While the hours devoted to technology-related training and time for teachers to integrate technology into lessons has increased substantially in the past three years, we need to continue to find ways to provide opportunities for teachers to learn about the technologies we have and integrate them seamlessly as educational tools in the classroom. Due to staffing changes, we have been able to slowly increase the professional development resources and availability from the tech department, and have a plan in place to look at specific staffing for technology integration support in the coming years.
In February of this year, voters will weigh in on a district plan to address class size pressures at all of our buildings through a series of additions and renovations. This provides us with a perfect opportunity to implement fresh ideas relating to the impact of classroom design on instruction, including specifically technology components and, at the secondary levels, flipped classroom concepts. Layouts that encourage seamless collaboration and presentation, while diffusing the central focus on the front of the room, can be achieved through multiple digital screens, student device inputs, 360° whiteboard surfaces, and flexible furniture, to name a few components. As we build and renovate with the reality of technology ubiquity in mind, many of the barriers to non-disruptive technology integration and collaboration dissolve.
While the majority of our staff consider our student device availability as excellent or adequate (88%), there are still gaps to be filled. One of the defining characteristics of our PPEL plan was that it was not a one-time plan, but rather a 10-year plan. Indeed, the plan provides for additional funding for classroom technology investments every year, with more funding available in some years than in others. Further, a significant proportion of the District’s technology operating budget for the past two years has been used to supplement our educational technology device options. This will continue, with ongoing investment in areas where demand is outpacing supply.
In order to address any of the preceding areas, it is crucial that we have a firm grasp upon what we want our technology to do, and how we want it to supplement student learning. In order to address this issue, the district will be forming a committee that will convene in fall, 2014 to look at how we currently use technology and identify the investments and changes necessary to continue to move forward. For instance, a determination that secondary education will move towards a flipped classroom model would carry with it different technology needs than continued investment in a more traditional classroom paradigm.
Among the potential avenues that this committee will discuss is the path that leads to a 1:1 device program, wherein all students at some or all grade levels are provided with a device (laptop, iPad, or otherwise) that they can use both at school and at home. A significant number of schools in our area and nationwide have already implemented 1:1 device programs, some of them successfully and others less so. Should the district implement a 1:1 program, it would be developed carefully and with a long-term emphasis, and no program is likely to begin until the fall of 2016 at the earliest.
Where Are We Now
Following a major investment in technology in the district beginning in fall, 2012, we have managed to bring our academic and administrative technology offerings up to a modern, regionally-competitive standard that allows for teachers and students to rely on the district’s technology resources.
Our plan for the technology component of the voter-approved PPEL level spans the entire 10-year life of the levy, and currently provides for establishment of a replacement cycle for all district technology equipment, supplemental investment in shortage areas on an annual basis, and continued funding for infrastructure needs to support our technology offerings in the future. The plan also remains flexible to adjust for our needs as we move forward, and will be the primary funding source for the second generation of ADM’s technology program.
I encourage all of you to continue to provide input to these evolving plans, through membership on committees, survey responses, and reaching out to me with specific ideas and concerns that you have regarding technology implementations here at ADM.