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Feature for District CIO

School administrators are using mobile software applications to remain highly productive no matter where they are. These same apps also are making it easier to create learning communities where leaders can share a wide range of information with other districts.

At Madison County Schools in Alabama, technology coordinator Tom Whitten, above on left, meets with his IT team to solve bandwidth issues in the district’s schools.

The wireless networks at six high schools in the Madison County Schools in Alabama are now humming at full power after administrators figured out how to prevent a new wave of new smartphones, tablets and other devices from overwhelming bandwidth capacity.

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) recommends districts consider its list of Essential Conditions when building a framework for teaching with technology.

Robert Nelson, superintendent of Chawanakee Unified SD, oversees students working on refurbished Apple MacBooks, saving the district thousands of dollars. (Photo: Will Drosche)

Just five years ago, Chawanakee USD, a small rural district nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains in northern California, and the North Kansas City School District, a suburban district located just north of Kansas City, Mo., were at the starting lines of the digital revolution.

The Oyster River Cooperative School District in Durham, N.H., recently upgraded to gigabit wired connectivity and replaced its legacy Wi-Fi with Aruba Networks. Above, Carolyn Eastman, assistant superintendent, meets with IT Director Joshua Olstad.

Implementing technology upgrades required for Common Core assessments can be more opportunity than burden for districts seeking the most academic achievement from their IT spending.

Districts interested in implementing blended learning sometimes turn to teachers rather than outside providers to create online curriculum to integrate with in-class instruction. This method may save costs, but requires continuous professional development and access to devices for all students. Here are two districts just beginning to create blended learning solutions with teachers at the helm.

Students take control of learning

Baldwin County School District in Alabama spends $9 million per year on its Digital Renaissance program, which funds MacBook Air laptops for middle and high school students, and iPads for K2 students.

Before 4,450 MacBook Airs were distributed to students, before teachers were equipped and trained on their own devices, before test scores increased and the dropout rate decreased, the Mooresville Graded School District’s digital conversion started with a hard look at finances—one result of which was the elimination of more than 35 teaching positions.

Students in the Orange County School District in North Carolina, above left, have sturdy laptops thanks to a blend of funding from a county sales tax and the district’s capital budget.

Prepare for all expenses

Implementing a 1-to-1 program involves more than just buying or leasing tablets or laptops, notes Terry Haas, chief financial officer of Mooresville Graded School District. District leaders also need to prepare for other costs, including setting up wired or wireless networking, and servers needed to support the additional computers and software. Technology staff also needs to be hired or expanded.

 A teacher is trained to use one of the 700 Asus tablets given to educators in Central USD in Fresno. All of the district’s 15,000 students will get tablets in the 2014-2015 school year.

The rise of 1-to-1 programs has pushed a surge of mobile devices into schools, creating a whole new logistical challenge for district CIOs.

At Batavia Public Schools in Illinois, administrators gather with CIO Anton Inglese. From left to right, Kris Mon, assistant superintendent of finance; Superintendent Lisa Hichens, Inglese, and Steve Pearce, assistant superintendent for human resources.

WANTED: CHIEF INFORMATION OFFICER: Looking for a technology expert, experienced with Mac and PC; servers; mobile technologies—including smartphones, tablets, laptops, and netbooks; coding; and helpdesk. Must be a strong people person and a great communicator, coach, and teacher, used to juggling multiple projects simultaneously, a team player, and always willing to pitch in. Comfortable in a fast-paced environment. People who have one way of doing things need not apply.