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Articles: Infrastructure

Five years ago, the Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina went digital, with laptops and MacBook Air computers districtwide.

The district has not purchased a textbook in over five years, with the exception of those required for high school Advanced Placement classes.

A Griegos Elementary School student in Albuquerque uses an iPad in the library, which has a portable cart of about 30 iPads—known as Computers on Wheels.

For years, there’s been an ongoing discussion about the digital divide between the “haves” and the “have nots.” As technology has advanced, so has that gap, which is driving fundamental changes in how we work, learn, and live.

Administrators, educators, and nonprofit entities nationwide have been trying to lessen that gap over the past decade. With newer, lighter technologies like tablets and ultra-light laptops like the MacBook Air, some schools are considering getting rid of textbooks altogether and going digital.

Helen Gooch, middle,  the instructional technology coordinator for Clarksville-Montgomery (Tenn.) School District, is with two technology integration coaches at the Kilobyte training lab at Greenwood Technology Center, getting quick tips for using Windows 8.

The Windows 8 operating system, which splashed on the market in October 2012, is changing the landscape of Microsoft-based computers. The once traditional PC operating system is making the move toward a more mobile, tablet-based environment in schools. With it comes a drastic change that will affect how educators interact with computers in a Windows-based system. The last major change in Windows OS was in 1995, says Cameron Evans, Microsoft’s chief technology officer for U.S. education. “The world has changed,” Evans says.


Richland (Wash.) School District No. 400, which has 15 schools, more than 11,000 students, and 1,400 employees, was challenged with an aging desktop infrastructure and limited financial resources from which to replace or replenish it. “Many of our machines were eight to 10 years old and running Windows 2000, which had reached its end of life,” says the district’s Executive Director of Information Technology Michael Leseberg.

For the first time, administrators nationwide can access and compare state education and technology policies in one place. The State Education Policy Center (SEPC) is a unique database that provides up-to-date information on state education and technology policies and practices to inform school reform and improvement efforts. The database launched in October, and was curated by the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), a national member association of educational technology leaders.

SchoolSpeedTest.orgAs K12 education becomes more interconnected to videos, photos, software and Internet offerings for project-based learning and other lessons, there is a great need for schools not to only have access to broadband but also to have enough broadband to keep up with the array of new tools used in class.

Shravan RavishankarWithin a few months, each of Henrico County (Va.) Public Schools’ 13 magnet schools will have a fully automated application process, thanks to two high school interns who built the software program this past summer.

Socializing with classmates online gets homework done faster.

I recently asked a group of middle school students to name their favorite use of technology for learning. An eager eighth-grade girl said, “My work has gotten so much better since we started using Facebook to do homework at night in my math class. We’re all online together, so if I have questions, I get them answered while doing my homework, instead of the next day or even later. Sometimes my friends even explain the math better than the teacher, and we send each other links to stuff online.” Wanting to learn more, I asked her which teacher had set up the group.

Trad Robinson

Trad Robinson, age 36, began his career in 1997 as the director of technology for the Union County (S.C.) School District after obtaining a computer science degree from Limestone College. In 2007, he became director of technology for Cherokee County (S.C.) Schools. He recently was named the chief information officer at the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind.

Q: Can you share some of your career accomplishments so far?

President Barack Obama, education technology funding, 2013 budget

Federal technology funding for K12 school districts has been integrated into various other funding streams. According to Karen Cator, director of the Office of Educational Technology for the Education Department, the technology marketplace will subsequently be more efficient in addressing various school and student needs in the coming school year.

rural 4G

President Obama hopes to bring high-speed wireless Internet to all rural areas in the next five years with the National Wireless Initiative he announced last year.

Industry experts and district technology officers offered a number of thoughts on what K12 school systems should know before investing in a new or upgraded student information system. The questions they suggest asking are:

Chris Comstock, Gooding High School principal, sitting in background, teacher Stefanie Shaw, standing, and Heather Williams, Gooding School District superintendent, discuss at-risk high school students’ intervention plans in the Milepost SIS program.

Like seemingly everyone else connected to K12 education, vendors that offer student information systems are being called upon to do more with less.

U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chair Julius Genachowski

While both the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Department of Education have released separate plans regarding the use of technology in education—the National Broadband Plan and the National Education Technology Plan, respectively—the two entities have teamed up to create a new commission to comprehensively transition U.S. schools into the digital era.

Mooresville (N.C.) Graded School District

Scott Smith once led efforts for North Carolina’s technology educators, when he served as president of the N.C. Technology in Education Society (NCTIES), the state’s affiliate of the International Society for Technology in Education. Now, he is chief technology officer for the Mooresville (N.C.) Graded School District—a suburban town located 20 miles north of Charlotte. It’s one of the only public school districts in the country to issue laptops to every student in grades 3-12.