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Articles: Technology

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 at Lewis and Clark High School in the Vancouver, Wash., work in small groups as part of their typical school day. 

School administrators overwhelmed by the idea of blended learning need not fear: many districts have successfully implemented one of four models now widely accepted in K12 education. Even more encouraging, some of these schools are seeing increased achievement, lower dropout rates, and other positive results.

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.

Education expert Will Richardson says schools must teach students to be successful learners in a world of information.

In his new book, Will Richardson says schools aren't keeping up the tech that drives today's students.

Innovative and progressive blended learning strategies are being implemented in school districts across the United States. What started as an alternative to face-to-face instruction, blended learning programs have provided students the opportunity to have more control of their learning. Research by the Innosight Institute found that in 2000, roughly 45,000 K12 students took an online course and, by 2010, over 4 million students were participating in some kind of formal online learning program.

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The editors of District Administration magazine are proud to present the 2013 Readers’ Choice Top 100 Products. This year’s winners were chosen from more than 1,800 unique nominations sent by K12 leaders who detailed the products’ positive impacts on their schools.

 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.

Teachers are increasingly incorporating videos from YouTube’s education channel into classroom lessons.

Districts are dropping bans on YouTube and allowing students and teachers access to the site’s educational videos. Paving the way in this shift in policy are large districts like Chicago and Broward County, Fla.

Principals, superintendents, and district CIOs are increasingly becoming the decision-makers for purchasing school apps, according to a new survey.

New Tech High students, with teacher facilitators Christie and Tom Wolf, second and third from left, examine vines in the Copia demonstration gardens in a viticulture project.

A bank in Albuquerque, N.M., had a limited budget to make one of its branches more environmentally sustainable, so students at the local ACE (Architecture, Construction, and Engineering) Leadership High School rolled up their sleeves and went to work. They searched websites for green design options, consulted with an engineer, and used spreadsheets to compare potential costs and energy savings.

Recently, a school in the United Kingdom was criticized for losing the personal data of almost 20,000 parents, students, and staff members. Names, addresses, medical information, and photographs were wiped out.

Last year, the University of Miami had backup tapes stolen that contained financial data, Social Security numbers, and health information for approximately 47,000 people at its medical center.

Glendale USD in southern California has taken an unprecedented step in bullying and crime prevention by paying a company to analyze students’ public posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media.

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.

Just five years ago, a student information system was used to take attendance and add or change grades. The tech director chose one, installed it and, in about two minutes, showed teachers how to use it.

Now, “it’s a portal for teachers to send assignments and for parents, students, and teachers to communicate with each other,” says Melissa Tebbenkamp, director of instructional technology at Raytown Quality Schools in Missouri.

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