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Articles: Technology

The need for high-speed internet in schools is growing exponentially. District Administration spoke with four administrators from around the country about what is driving current bandwidth-consumption trends, what impact increased bandwidth has on tight budgets, and what the future of bandwidth looks like for K12 schools.

JIM RARUS

Geographic information systems data, or GIS, is making districts smarter about everything from safe walking routes to enrollment. A geographic data analysis program, developed by GuideK12, lets schools pinpoint students’ homes to determine the safest routes for large groups of kids walking from the same neighborhood.

Edgenuity's iPad software allows educators in Henry County Schools to create customizable math content.

A new flexbooks program will be implemented this fall in math classrooms across a suburban Atlanta school district to keep up with changing state requirements and reduce textbook costs.

Henry County Schools is using Edgenuity software on newly purchased iPads in its math classrooms, nicknaming the program “flexbooks” because teachers and administrators will have the flexibility to create customizable math content for each classroom and student, says Assistant Superintendent Aaryn Schmuhl. Parents will also have access to the content online so they can help students with homework.

A student teaches at a Saturday AspireIT program at Hodges University in Florida.

A new pilot program aims to address the lack of women in technology fields by starting early—giving more middle school students a deeper knowledge of computing.

The AspireIT program, from the nonprofit National Center for Women & Information Technology, pairs female high school and college students with K12 education organizations, such as ISTE and The College Board, to run computing outreach programs for middle school girls. The first program launched in June.

Districts may have more affordable access to broadband internet service as early as fall 2014, thanks to an FCC proposal to reform the federal E-rate program that connects schools and public libraries to the internet. The proposal marks a step forward for President Barack Obama’s ConnectED initiative to bring high-speed internet access to 99 percent of U.S. students within five years.

Does your district have 20 minutes every two weeks to get students proficient in technology? That’s all it’s taken for elementary students in the Phillipsburg (N.J.) School District, thanks to EasyTech, a self-paced interactive curriculum that teaches students critical technology skills in the context of core curriculum and real-world challenges.

Located just outside Albuquerque, New Mexico, Rio Rancho Cyber Academy (RRCA) is an accredited, diploma-granting enriched virtual learning school that serves 180 students in grades 6-12, and is part of the Rio Rancho Public Schools. 49 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch and 14 percent of students receive special education services.

When deciding whether online learning is right for your district, many questions arise, from deciding on the best curriculum to how to properly onboard families. How to train staff and how success will be measured must also be thought through. This web seminar, originally broadcast on March 13, 2013, joined together online learning experts from across the country to discuss how they were able to successfully introduce online curriculum in their districts.

Blended learning is a disruptive innovation that has been changing how teachers teach and how schools operate. The Innosight Institute and its founder Michael Horn predicted its emergence and believe blended learning will continue to grow at a rapid pace due to the success it brings to students. Rocky Mount Prep (N.C.) saw tremendous growth in its elementary students in several months after supplementing traditional teaching with adaptive online math software.

Elementary school students from Pulaski Community School District in Wisconsin learn about photography with iPads during summer school.

Visit the classrooms of Burlington High School in the Burlington (Mass.) Public School District and you’ll see the school’s two-year-old 1-to-1 iPad initiative in action. Some students might be taking notes using Evernote, rather than pen and paper. Others may be translating and recording first-aid terms for a Spanish lesson. A music class could be rehearsing with the Garage Band app.

Some of the school districts adopting online Common Core assessments to measure academic achievement in 2014-2015 plan to develop their own tests.

In a survey released by Enterasys, a company specializing in wireless systems, 42 percent of schools plan to develop their own tests, while 55 percent of schools are likely to work with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) or the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).

School districts with social media policies unanimously prohibit the online sharing of student information and data, such as test scores, as well as information on other district personnel.

It probably won’t be long before you hear about the next disturbing incident of a teacher or other school employee contacting a student inappropriately on social media. It might involve inappropriate postings on a personal Facebook page, ill-advised texting with students, or a highly public verbal attack on colleagues or supervisors.

Here are some suggestions from districts that have created policies:

Westfield (N.J.) Public Schools' "Walls to Windows" technology plan will include BYOD this school coming school year.

Administrators at Westfield (N.J.) Public Schools don’t just want their students exposed to technology, they want them immersed in it. The district’s goal is to create a connected and collaborative school community that empowers Westfield students to thrive as 21st-century learners. The implementation plan for that goal is called “Walls to Windows.”

Schools are not getting a big enough bang for their education technology buck, according to a new report. While computers and internet access are common in the classroom, students are often using this technology for simple foundational exercises, rather than higher-order data analysis or statistics work that will help prepare them for the modern workforce, the report from the Center for American Progress found. This issue is most prevalent in schools with primarily low-income students, further widening the digital divide.

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