School district ramps up classroom tech

Kile Brewer
Posted 11/8/17

MIDDLEBURG – Clay County District Schools are now more connected than ever with almost 3,000 wireless access points throughout the district.

This number is up from just over 1,000 at the …

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School district ramps up classroom tech

Posted

MIDDLEBURG – Clay County District Schools are now more connected than ever with almost 3,000 wireless access points throughout the district.

This number is up from just over 1,000 at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year, and the effort is part of a much larger three-month plan to ensure that every core classroom at every school will have the materials necessary to meet the tech needs of their lesson plans.

“We are now a totally wireless school, we have access points in every classroom,” said Laura Fogarty, principal at Tynes Elementary School.

Tynes hosted Superintendent Addison Davis last week after he reached out to the school to serve as a demonstrative model for the district’s recently-completed tech upgrades. The upgrades will allow better access to the OneClay portal as well as the iReady and Achieve 3000 learning applications.

“We’ve got to stay connected and relevant,” Davis said. “The big thing for me is equity for our kids, and to make sure that they have the best tools that they need to compete and to be successful.”

While touring a couple of second grade classrooms at Tynes, the district’s updated model for education could be seen clearly. Teachers no longer stand in front of a room full of kids reviewing a chapter from a book and assigning a one-page homework assignment from that chapter. Now kids shift between about three stations within a core class, either in a small group with the teacher for that face-to-face traditional style of learning, or in groups with their peers working together to complete a task. More recently another category of learning has emerged – allowing students individualized learning using Chromebooks, which is where iReady and Achieve 3000 come into play.

“We have a blended model and we want to protect a blended model,” Davis said. “The bulk of learning will be [whole group]. This is just a small percentage [that is tied to this technology].”

The programs allow each student to move through education resources that adapt to the learner, slowing down to help some kids, or presenting more difficult challenges to those who breeze through a lesson. Through the connection to the OneClay portal, these applications can provide statistics on each student and show teachers areas where students are excelling, or areas where students need improvement.

The use of these platforms will now be available district-wide with the school district providing at least six devices per classroom after the purchase of 6,200 Chromebooks since August, bringing the district total to about 20,700, which will increase by about 500 next year.

In an effort to continue to stay ahead of the tech obsolescence curve, the devices are rented by the district, and will be upgraded on a yearly basis for about the same $600-700,000 price tag in each year’s budget, most of which comes to the district through federal education dollars.

“Most of the money comes out of our E-Rate,” said Sabrina Thomas, the district’s Technology Services supervisor. “Also, we received some help from the facilities team, our technology budget and our Digital Classroom Plan.”

According to Thomas the district is close to meeting its goal for devices, which places one device per two students in grades Kindergarten through second, and one device per child for students in grades three through high school.

Davis is aware that the introduction of technology in the classroom needs to be a gradual process, and is doing what he can to direct staff to help maintain the ultimate goal, which is to teach the “whole child.”

“We’re trying to implement this with high implementation, but couple that with high support,” Davis said. “We want to make sure that we take it slow, that we have high support, and that it’s being implemented in an effective manner within our school district, so it’s not driven at such a fast pace that we lose the integrity of what we’re trying to accomplish.”

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