Technology and the Three Districts - An Overview

from Educators' eZine --> As a recent recipient of a Master's Degree in Teaching and Learning with Technology, and as a veteran teacher, I am very interested in how some of the local school districts integrate technology into
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from Educators' eZine

As a recent recipient of a Master's Degree in Teaching and Learning with Technology, and as a veteran teacher, I am very interested in how some of the local school districts integrate technology into their curriculum. I interviewed personnel at three different school districts to get an understanding of how each integrates technology, what works for them, and what are their plans for the future.

Introduction

Information for this series comes from three distinct school districts; one rural, one rural/suburban, and one urban. I spoke with administrators and technology personnel and asked questions about software, hardware, funding, training, and other issues. While the districts are relatively close geographically, no more than 30 to 45 minutes apart, they are of widely different size and serve entirely different populations. And yet they had some interesting similarities in three areas: learning environments, such as labs, classroom workstations, mobile carts, and the like; assistive technology; and sources of funding. Two major differences – in staff development opportunities and in obstacles overcome – each stand out.

Conclusion

In general, I find that these rural, suburban, and urban school districts have more in common than not. Below, is a summary of my interviews, organized according to the questions asked.

In terms of types and variety of software, all three districts utilize Microsoft Office throughout grade levels and subject areas. The two larger schools tend to have more of a variety of subject specific software programs, whereas the smallest school focuses on a fewer choices, but offers more in depth of what they do have.

As for hardware, all three districts are comparable. Each building within each of the districts has at least one computer lab. Each district has a teacher station in every classroom that is connected to a wall-mounted TV for whole group activities. Each building has mobile laptop carts that contain document cameras, multimedia projectors, and DVD players. Another similarity is that each district has student workstations in each classroom. The suburban district has additional hardware in the form of Smart Boards, PDAs, and the like. The city district and the rural district are looking into making some of these same purchases.

The three districts are similar in their choices for assistive technology, as well. They each have alternate mice, keyboards, and touch screens. They each have programs such as Kurzweil and Compass.

Each district has developed a technology plan, but each in a different way. The suburban district closely follows a curriculum map similar to any other subject area and includes information on state and national standards. The rural district's plan contains information on standards, district goals for technology, and includes benchmarks for each grade level. The city plan is not a stand-alone plan as the others are, but is integrated into grade level and subject level curriculum maps.

Funding sources are the same for each of the three districts. Technology is a line in the district's budgets, and all three districts use a payment plan from their area BOCES. Each would like to pursue more grants.

The districts all utilize more knowledgeable teachers to train other teachers, either formally or informally. Two of the districts provide short five-minute tutorials as part of faculty meetings. However, this is where the similarities end. The suburban school has an in-house staff and staff from BOCES for training, open labs, e-tips, online staff development, and a variety of curriculum and assessment forms accessible on the district server. The city district has recently signed a contract with BOCES to provide in-house training; much of its staff development is from outside sources. The rural district gets most of its training from outside sources and has one computer services person who also provides training.

Another difference between the districts is what they consider to be their obstacles. The urban district cites having accurate and reasonable visions for the future for updates and upgrades. The suburban district cites its obstacle as understanding teacher need and training. The rural district cites its obstacle as funding. This district is working to educate its community and staff on what it takes to create successful technology integration.

Each district has been able to work through their obstacles in ways that work for them and have each cited other examples of what works for them. The city district believes that its efforts in equity and access are working. The suburban district believes that its communication between teachers and IT staff and the amount and type of IT staff are working. The rural school believes that participation in regional technology committees and the informal peer teaching are what is working.

The city and rural districts cite similar long-term goals. They both are working toward parent access to student information online. Both the city and suburban districts cite data management as a long-term goal.

As for each district's biggest wish, the largest district has a broad view of staying on top of its technology plan and being able to move quickly, but with preparation. The suburban and rural districts had a less broad view; funding and training.

In all, I see more similarities than differences. The one thread that remains the same in every conversation is the desire to do what it takes to integrate technology in the best way that the district can.

Part 1 – January, 2008 - Maine – Endwell School District
Part 2 – February, 2008 - Binghamton City School District
Part 3 – March, 2008 - Greene school district

Email:Judy Cordere

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