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Feature for District CIO

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.

Until recently, student electronic devices, from cell phones to iPods to laptop computers, were the forbidden fruit in schools. But with technology budgets languishing and such devices becoming more powerful, affordable and omnipresent in students’ lives, district technology leaders are now eyeing a welcome educational harvest through bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs.

The Mooresville (N.C.) Graded School District dream team solves problems. Clockwise from top left: Robert Lane, Robert Rhyne, Frank Mukina, Scott Smith, Jeff Martin, Kim Cline and Michael Hiskey.

At almost every turn over the past decade—from innovative instructional technologies to advanced database management—administrators and teachers have discovered a brave new world in education. But a host of experts in educational technology say that for all the progress in districts so far, that world is becoming markedly braver and newer—and in a hurry.

Blackboard Mobile

Teachers, students and parents can get instant access to courses, content and announcements via their mobile devices using Blackboard Mobile platform. Students and teachers can access documents in multiple formats, post announcements, create discussion threads and comment on blogs and journals.

Desire2Learn

For Scott Newcomb, a fourth-grade teacher at St. Marys Intermediate School in St. Marys, Ohio, using smartphones in the classroom helps him teach math to his technology-savvy students in new ways. Instead of the typical textbook geometry lesson, Newcomb brings his students outdoors, where they use smartphones to snap photos of parallel lines, acute angles and other examples of geometric shapes.

The increasing incorporation of digital materials and resources into school and district portals and repositories has given rise in recent years to a new focus on the issue of identity management in K12 education.

Deborah Karcher, CIO of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, meets with a network a

For district leaders considering idenitity and access management programs, Sandeep Chellani, executive director of product development for the New
York City Public Schools, says it’s important to become as aware as possible of the benefits and potential of identity management and not to be at the mercy of vendors. “Districts need to step up and do a better job of voicing concerns and pushing vendors to meet their needs,” Chellani says.

Districts in the area covered by the LEARN Regional Educational Service Center in southeastern Connecticut for the past four years have boosted their ability to save money on bulk technology purchases through online reverse auctions. Such auctions are designed so that vendors try to out-lowball one another to get the job in school districts.

Lee County Public Schools in Fort Myers, Fla., performed a full migration of its data center, complete with new storage solutions, more than three years ago. With a $500,000 budget for the conversion—one-third of what surrounding districts had spent for similar initiatives—Lee County couldn’t afford bells and whistles.

In tough economic times for school districts across the nation, might it help to cut costs further if districts required students to bring their own devices? For now the jury is out, but district leaders are trying to figure out how to support many different devices in their buildings as state and federal funds for education get even tighter than they were just a few years ago.

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