The New Ocean View Hills Elementary School was the only school in the San Ysidro School District (SYSD) to be equipped with new technology in 2006. In the six other schools, teachers needed to share student computers and use obsolete technology. SYSD, which is 15 miles south of San Diego, is sometimes referred to as "the Gateway to Mexico." Five of its seven schools are in Program Improvement, a federally mandated reform for schools that do not meet AYP. Its student population is 93 percent Hispanic, with 85 percent in English as a Second Language programs. Furthermore, a recent district survey of students found that 79 percent of the students do not have access to a home computer. The challenge for SYSD was to duplicate the New Ocean View school's technology and success across the district.
The SYSD Board of Education and Frank Paredes, director of information management, knew that teachers at the elementary school using SMART Interactive Whiteboards and their applications were better able to present lessons and improve student engagement and success. They also found that teachers were reenergized. "Understanding that our students were growing up in a digital age, the district was committed to investing in technology which engages students and ensures their preparation for the future," says Paredes.
Paul Randolph, president of the fivemember San Ysidro school board, agrees. "We look for any intervention that will help prepare our students for the world they will be entering today," he says.
According to Karl Christensen, district assistant superintendent of business services, a variety of sources were used to fund its new $1.3 million 21st-century classrooms. A $1 million grant came from a federal Qualified Zone Academy Bond (QZAB), which can be used for school renovations and repairs. The district also received $150,000 in Microsoft settlement funds, which the company had set aside to resolve a California consumer class action suit. These funds were available through vouchers to the poorest schools in California. The district used the funds to buy hardware, software and technology services, including equipment needed for computer networks and technology infrastructure. The district and individual schools provided the additional necessary funds to complete the project.
San Ysidro's Technology Today
Each district classroom has a ceilingmounted Epson 83c PowerLite projector, SB680 SMART board, AVerVision300P document camera to replace outdated overheads, RCA DVD/VCR combo recorder, and Extron Electronics' PVS-300 PoleVault System, which easily integrates and controls everything through a wall-mounted panel with a universal remote.
"The SMART boards are interactive and durable," says Christensen. "They offer technology that can withstand daily use by teachers and students for projecting upon and for the interactivity necessary to manipulate objects, write, display and correct answers."
Southland Technology handled 189 installations of the new technology for classrooms and labs, including the control panels. The district maintenance staff installed the wiring, and its information system staff ran all the cabling, completing the task in six weeks and just in time for the 2007-2008 school year.
"We also needed to take care of our teachers, who had been sharing student computers for their work and planning," says Christensen.
Now every teacher has a computer for work, planning and presenting. Ceiling speakers and wireless teacher microphones enhance lessons and understanding for students.
Technology Influences Reforms
SYSD administrators are hoping that this new technology will contribute to the implementation of technology curricula for staff and students, specifically the advancement of curricula for English language development and staff professional development on software applications and hardware. And administrators hope it helps with improving and increasing parent involvement activities.
Randolph believes that with the new technology and infrastructure in place, it's essential to have professional development on how to use and teach with it. District teachers are already using the new resources, but technology staff are studying to become certified SMART technology trainers so that faculty can take advantage of all the new teaching possibilities. Principals are meeting once a month to evaluate the new technology, and staff meetings are being held to get feedback from teachers. An instructional technology coach position has been created to facilitate teacher training.
A technology oversight committee has been formed to modify the district's five-year plan and gauge technological accountability. An obsolescence plan and funding for new technology are also being developed. "As a school board member and from a parent's perspective, with two children in the district, technology will change the way teaching occurs,"Randolph says. "And it's good to know that all of us in San Ysidro are moving in this direction."
The future is exciting. "In 2007 our focus has been on the teachers using technology on a daily basis, but in 2008 the emphasis will be on technology for our students," says Christensen.
"With the standardization of our high-tech classrooms," Paredes adds, "SYSD is moving toward a new type of teaching environment, which we believe will influence student achievement across the board."
Ken Royal is associate editor.