Technology and the Three Districts: Part 1, a Suburban District

from Educators' eZine

This is the first in a series of three: a rural school, a suburban school, and an urban school.

Maine - Endwell School District

Maine - Endwell School District is actually a part rural and part suburban New York district, located between Syracuse, New York and Scranton, Pennsylvania. I spoke with Kathy Sever, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction and Mari Geisenhof, Director of Information Technology Services, and asked the following questions.

Q: What software is used at various grade levels?
Ms. Geisenhof provided me with an extensive list of software, noting 62 programs. Some programs are subject specific, such as Music ACE and notation software for the music department, foreign language programs, Exploring Physics, Mapping American History, and a wide variety of others.

Q: What types of learning environments do you use, for example, mobile carts, classroom computers, computer labs, etc.?
Classrooms have a wall-mounted TV. One computer is wirelessly attached to the TV. Many teachers use this set up to view PowerPoint, streaming video, DVDs, to list the daily schedule and other reminders, to list learning strategies for problem solving, and inspirational messages.

There are up to 6 computers per classroom for student use.

Each building has two computer labs; one of which is in the library to integrate the use of technology with research.

Each building has wireless mobile carts with 10 laptops on each cart with a DVD player and speakers.

The district also has several document cameras (Elmo machine), and projectors.

Q: What type of assistive technology do you use?
The district has some software programs in use for its special education students as well as assistive technology like alternate mice and touch screens.

Q: Has the district developed technology integration curriculum maps?
The district is presently developing a technology integration curriculum map. It has completed K - 5, and is working on 6 - 12. The curriculum map is organized by grade level and includes new and ongoing vocabulary. The map contains performance indicators for each grade level and is based on the NETS/ISTE standards.

Q: What are your funding sources?
Ms. Geisenhof stated that this district has a very supportive administration and community for funding technology. The technology budget is primarily paid for from within the district budget, rather than many outside sources. The Board of Cooperative Educational Services, known as BOCES (a county-wide resource for teacher training, and support services) also provides support.

Q: What are your teacher-training opportunities?
On the first day of school, each teacher receives a brochure from ITS listing the available services, contact information, and the like.

Some conference days are used for curriculum mapping.

ITS provides:

  1. Monthly classes on the district software programs
  2. Monthly classes on equipment use
  3. Online staff development
  4. 5-Minute Tech Tips, where ITS staff offers a quick tip at staff meetings
  5. E-Tips, where ITS staff post tips for staff to access

The district maintains a server that holds:

  1. The standards for each subject area
  2. Assessment information
  3. Curriculum maps
  4. Scope and sequence forms

Q: What works?

  1. Technology integration staff
  2. Program Analyst on staff
  3. Being responsive when teachers need it
  4. Enthusiasm for IT
  5. Supportive Administration
  6. Teachers involved in technology requests & managing the curriculum information on the server
  7. Getting teacher input on technology needs prior to major purchases
  8. Patience
  9. The ability to see how all the pieces fit together

Q: What are some obstacles that the district overcame and how?
One obstacle that the district came up against and overcame was an initial misunderstanding of teacher need. This resulted in the purchase of some items that are not used as much as they could be. This obstacle was eliminated through better communication and teacher request forms.

Teachers may request software and/or hardware. They first complete a form explaining how the item will be used, by what group of people, by how many people, how it will advance learning, and how it helps reach the standards.

Another obstacle is time for training. One way the ITS staff works around this is through the e-tips and 5-minute tech tips that are described above.

Q: What are your long-term plans?
The district is developing plans to purchase a scanner that reads standardized tests and allows for manipulation of the data. This allows the district to look at specific areas, such as item analysis. The results can be attained quickly, allowing for a short turn-around time between assessment and further curriculum development.

As stated above, the curriculum mapping will continue through to grade twelve.

Q: What is your biggest wish?
In addition to its technology integrators, the district would like to train a few classroom teachers to be lead teachers in technology integrators. These staff members would act somewhat like a grade chair or department chair acts, but focuses specifically on technology in the curriculum.

As with everything, it seems as if there is not enough time. Ms. Geisenhof emphasized needing more time for staff training since it is difficult to schedule during the summer. Staff is not always available in the summer, finances are not available, and this is the time of year when upgrades, repairs, and the like are completed.

Email:Judy Coderre