Technology and the Three Districts: Part 3

from Educators' eZine

Greene School District, a rural district

Greene school district is rural, located north of the city of Binghamton, New York. I spoke with Carole Stanbro, Principal and curriculum developer, and John Girton, of Computer Services, and asked the following questions.

Q: What software is used at various grade levels?
All grade levels use Microsoft Office to some extent, beginning with letter and number recognition with Word in the earliest grades to more sophisticated uses of Excel, PowerPoint, and Word in the older grades. In addition to Microsoft, the district uses other programs that are subject and/or grade level specific such as: Compass in the elementary school: Finale for music students; some Adobe products for art students, CAD programs for technology students, and a virtual business program for business students. The district uses Kidspiration and Inspiration, as well.

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 connected to the TV. Many teachers use this set up to view PowerPoint presentations, DVDs, etc.

There are individual workstations in each classroom.

Each building has at least two mobile carts with laptops on each cart with a DVD player, VCR, document camera, and multimedia projector.

The district also owns microscopes which are connected to the computer and used in many science classes.

Q: What type of assistive technology do you use?
The district has some software programs in use for its special education students, including Kids Keys Jr., Kurzweil, and some edutainment programs such as Jump Start. Other forms of assistive technology include alternate mice and keyboards, touch screens, and Zoom Tech.

Q: Has the district developed technology integration curriculum maps?
The district recently completed an updated curriculum map. The plan includes specific technology goals and assessments as well as benchmarks for each grade level. The technology plan has been evolving for some time; beginning with a large comprehensive plan, and is now becoming a more streamlined, focused plan. The most updated version which also includes the district's future goals.

Q: What are your funding sources?
There are two basic sources for funding. The first is through the district budget and the second is through the Board of Cooperative Educational Services, known as BOCES, a New York State resource for teacher training and support services. Many of the local school districts take advantage of BOCES' payment plans for purchasing equipment. While the district receives some outside grant money, it does not receive as much as is available due to the time and paperwork that is involved in the application and follow up involved.

Q: What are your teacher-training opportunities?
Some conference days are used specifically for technology training. Teachers are asked what they would most like to learn, and the in-service workshops are based on the teacher response. Some of the in-service training is provided by Mr. Girton and some is provided by BOCES.

Some training is done on an informal basis through peer tutoring. Each building has some teachers that are self-taught and pass on their knowledge to others.

In addition to these formal and informal professional development opportunities, each faculty meeting includes a quick, five minute tutorial on technology. For example, the basics of opening, writing, and sending Email were topics. At a later meeting, creating folders for organizing email was the topic.

Q: What works?
In addition to the mobile carts with laptops, the district also owns a cart of Alphasmart tablets. The tablets are widely used for keyboarding and word processing. The labs run on a tight schedule so the tablets offer an alternative when students just need to work on keyboarding or word processing activities.

The district is very happy with the Compass program in the earlier grades.

The informal peer tutoring is very beneficial to teachers who just need to be pointed in the right direction. Involvement in regional technology committees that are county-wide is very beneficial for a smaller school district where there may be limited IT staff. These committees allow for professional networking, problem solving, and are informational sources for IT staff and school administrators.

Q: What are some obstacles that the district overcame and how?
Funding is the largest obstacle for this rural school. One of the ways the school was able to solve some of its funding problems was to develop a clear and consistent technology replacement plan. The initial high cost of obtaining both hardware and software was difficult to fathom for some individuals, but the administration demonstrated to them that while the initial cost may be large, a long-term, well-planned replacement and upgrade plan helps the cost of technology integration to remain somewhat constant, without large spikes in the budget.

Q: What are your long-term plans?
Long term plans include greater parent access to student information online, including homework and grades.

Q: What is your biggest wish?
Even more opportunities for staff development and increased support staff. Also more trained technology integrators who would provide staff development in the use of technology.

Email:Judy Coderre