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Articles: Technology

Facing the twin specter of state and local budget cuts, Falcon School District 49 in Peyton, Colo., has done “some pretty radical things” with technology that have enabled the district to survive without drastic staff cuts, according to Kim McClelland, assistant superintendent and innovation leader for one of various regions in the district. The moves even allowed teachers to receive a 2 percent raise for the 2012-2013 school year.

Falcon Virtual Academy gives teachers 1,000 Macbooks.

Do school district leaders receive even close to a full return on investment for 21st-century technologies like online learning, videoconferencing and interactive whiteboards? Technology vendors and their most engaged, enthusiastic customers say that many educators leave significant potential untapped because they are unable to see how technology could be more transformative or are unwilling to make the bold moves necessary to align curriculum with technology rather than the other way around.

Debbie Karcher has worked in IT with the Miami-Dade County Public Schools for 27 years. After seventeen years with the district, she worked in the private sector for Amadeus and Motorola, returning in 2001 as CIO. She manages 500 people; 250 technicians are assigned to schools to support students and staff, and the rest are in development, training and security. District Administration often references M-DCPS, one of the nation’s largest districts. We felt it was time to talk with the CIO.

Zak Project

Students at The Emery/Weiner School in Houston are taking part in an unusual project. Ben Stern, a technology integration specialist and history teacher at the school created The Zak Project. The project’s purpose is to help students review for their final exam in a way that also commemorates a former student, Zak Rosen. Before he could graduate, he passed away of Familial Dysautonomia (FD), also known as Riley-Day Syndrome, which largely affects Ashkenazi Jews. According to Stern, Zak was a sweet, funny and driven young man who overcame the symptoms of the disease to lead a rich life.

Bullies to Buddies’ Victim Proof Your School,

Channing Bete Company’s Prevention and Intervention for School Staff

e2Campus Bully Buster mobile app

ePals’ In2Books bullying books

First Student’s film “The Bully Project”


Veteran Superintendent Paul Vallas is onto the next big thing.

gaming, minecraft

Seven-year-old Chanse, a first grader in Kathleen Gerard’s classroom at PS 116 in New York City, is in a “World of Goo.” On an iPad, he’s using his index finger to pull little black animated “goo balls” around the screen and to connect them in an attempt to build what will end up being a flimsy but balanced bridge made of oily glop. He’s building across chasms and cliffs, avoiding windmills and spikes, trying to connect to a pipe that will suck up any goo that he didn’t use to score him big points.

One of the most popular games finding its way into classrooms now isn’t much of a game at all. Released originally in 2009, Minecraft is a “sandbox” 3D video game built in a Lego-like environment that allows “players” the creative freedom to build anything, from towering castles set high on ocean cliffs to complex roller coasters.

Fifteen schools in Maryland have been involved with a special project from the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF) to bring STEM education—science, technology, engineering and math—to middle- and high-school students, working in partnership with agencies like the National Institutes of Health, NASA and the U.S. Naval Academy.

Keeping Up With Tech Innovation

In response to DA’s District CIO coverage the past several months, I’d like to say we can save money and time if we can get better at designing curriculum that spans content and allows us to do more in less time. The time can be used for better professional development in technology integration. 

In the near future, we will see fewer traditional school buildings. Taking their place will be affinity schools, organized around students’ interests, and more STEM labs strategically located to offer easy access. Blended learning will be the norm, with individual students needing their own device. Networks will deliver higher levels of broadband performance to accommodate the growth in online learning. Technology combined with global learning will change the ways schools look today.

Social media tools like Facebook, Myspace, Instagram, Google+ and Flickr are potentially exciting learning and teaching tools that can help teachers and students make connections to ideas, skills and concepts in a 21st-century learning environment. However, social media are getting a bad rap in education. Some students use the tools in ways that pit their First Amendment rights against their responsibilities as students in brick-and-mortar schools.

Apple reports that 1.5 million iPads are used in K12. Given that there are approximately 55 million students in K12, the iPad has penetrated K12 faster than any other computing technology. And the tech tsunami doesn’t seem to be slowing down. We have seen this type of excitement before with desktops and then again with laptops, although their rates of growth in K12 were slower. Each time the expectations for what the computing device would do for education were sky high, and each time there was disappointment.

With a vast number of new software and Web-based reading programs on the market, students of all ages and abilities can target specific reading skills, such as comprehension, fluency, phonemic awareness and vocabulary. In addition, access has changed greatly over the last couple of years. Students no longer need to be in a computer lab to use Web-based programs; they can use laptops or tablets as part of a one-to-one computing program or their own devices if their school has a bring-your-own-device policy.

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