The Long Review

Too often, reviews of edtech fall short of reality.
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Too often, reviews of edtech fall short of reality.

Too often, reviews of edtech fall short of reality. Sure, speeds and feeds are important to consider, but how does this stuff work in the real world? T&L will try to answer that question this school year, when our editors follow the stakeholders at the Village Charter School (VCS) in Trenton, NJ, as they implement Pearson’s SuccessMaker software on a 40-seat Dell PC desktop network. For a full, comprehensive look at the project, including specific product details and costs, a profile of VCS, supplemental resources, etc., go to techlearning.com and click on The Long Review.

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THIS MONTH: VCS GETS STARTED

FIRST, THE TANGIBLES:

TECHNOLOGY—VCS had to create two new curriculum labs to support SuccessMaker— one with 20 seats for the elementary grades and another with 20 seats for middle schoolers. SuccessMaker will sit on its own dedicated server. The school’s current setup of older Macs and COWs would not cut it, but the new Dell systems could handle the software.

FACILITIES—Two new media labs involve rewiring classrooms with outlets and network nodes. Both Pearson and Dell were proactive in assisting VCS to do a comprehensive needs audit.

SCHEDULING—SuccessMaker is intensive. At one of several preparation meetings held this summer, faculty met with Pearson representatives to discuss how to work the program into day-to-day operations. Working three 45-minute sessions a week is difficult but imperative. “It’s like going to the gym,” says Head of School Leigh Byron. “Once a week just isn’t going to cut it.” (Go to techlearning.com to watch a video of one such meeting as well as a school tour.)

PERSONNEL—To make the most of this initiative, the school had to assign new responsibilities to staff members. “We’re going to have a clerical position that will act as the lab manager,” says Byron. “This person can run the reports, making sure there is paper in the printer, things like that. This way the teachers can be working with the kids.”

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New hardware also means new relationships for the tech coordinator and for the school’s VAR. VCS will now have a new Pearson curriculum consultant and IT consultant they can tap throughout the year. VCS has dedicated customer support for its Dell hardware as well.

Of course, none of this will work if one big intangible isn’t in place. “We have to create a belief system,” says Byron. “We have to inspire our teachers to believe that what we are doing will work and the support will be there. So if something is not working, they can go back and ask for help…and they won’t be thrown under the bus if it doesn’t work.”

Watch a brief news video about Village Charter School here.

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