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Feature for District CIO

cross county sd

As the cutting edge of technology has moved from getting computers into the classroom to digitizing textbooks to fully and seamlessly integrating technology into pedagogy, the role of superintendents and other district leaders has needed to shift to ensure teachers and students are reaping the benefits.

But that cutting edge has been evolving ever more swiftly in recent years, and at the same time, the roles of school district leaders have been expanding and becoming more complex, which has added to the challenges.

cross county sd

As the cutting edge of technology has moved from getting computers into the classroom to digitizing textbooks to fully and seamlessly integrating technology into pedagogy, the role of superintendents and other district leaders has needed to shift to ensure teachers and students are reaping the benefits.

But that cutting edge has been evolving ever more swiftly in recent years, and at the same time, the roles of school district leaders have been expanding and becoming more complex, which has added to the challenges.

Westfield CIO Brian AukerWestfield (N.J.) Public Schools was closed for over a week after Hurricane Sandy hit on Oct. 29, with immediate power losses in nine of the 10 schools. Located about 25 miles from New York City, Westfield houses data for 6,310 students and over 1,000 employees.

Superstorm Sandy swept the East Coast in late October, leaving not only residents and businesses without power and struggling to stay afloat, but thousands of schools in the region without power as well. It reminded administrators of the need for comprehensive emergency plans to ensure student, staff, and data security.

Visitor management programs and software are a growing trend in K12 schools, according to Chuck Hibbert, a national school security consultant and the retired director of security for Wayne Township Schools in Indianapolis. In some districts, schools are using additional software that checks visitors against sexual predator and/or criminal databases. One of the more popular programs is Raptorware by Raptor Technologies.

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School principals are in the middle of a balancing act when it comes to security. They need to create a welcoming, supportive open environment for students, parents, and credible community visitors who have legitimate purposes in their buildings, while they also have to keep out individuals who potentially have “ill intentions,” says Kenneth Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services, a national consulting firm specializing in school security and emergency preparedness training, school security assessments and school and crisis counseling services.

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.

1. Seek out ideas. Those who have already implemented virtual schooling can offer plenty of suggestions on how to get an online learning program off the ground and keep it flying.

2. Invest in design. Spend time and resources up front on instructional and Web design to make sure that online courses deliver their content effectively.

3. Get competent teachers. Find teachers who are adept in areas such as promoting collaborative learning, pacing long-range student projects, and working individually with students.

Virtual school programs—especially online high school courses—are gaining traction in school districts around the country. According to a report issued in November 2011 by the National Center for Education Statistics, 55 percent of the more than 2,000 school districts surveyed had students in distance education programs during the 2009-2010 school year.

Sixth-graders from the Wayland-Cohocton Middle School in New York train on Toshiba tablets, which the school won in a 2010 Win a Wireless Lab Sweepstakes.

Tablets have come a long way since Apple launched its pioneering Newton MessagePad in 1993, the first Internet-connected flat-screen device pairing a stylus with handwriting-recognition software. Since then, computer hardware companies have been refining and experimenting with the concept of Internet-connected tablet computing devices. The personal digital assistant (PDA), convertible laptop/tablets, dual-screen booklet tablets, e-book readers and other designs have been among the many iterations of tablet computers, sometimes known as slates or media tablets.

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