has completed most of a series of planned technology updates, and is on track to complete all of them sometime next year as part of the district’s master plan, Seth Bowers, director of information and instructional technology, told board members in a progress report at on April 16.
The upgrades include new computers for teachers and students, interactive white boards, also known as SMART Boards, a school-wide audio system, increased bandwidth, full wireless access and other infrastructure improvements.
Of the 2,000 computers dedicated for student-use in 2008, only 46 had the ability to read DVDs, Bowers told board members.
“Now we can’t roll these things out fast enough,” he said.
In an interview with Patch, Bowers said the district currently has about 3,000 computers for student-use, about 400 of which don’t have the ability to read DVDs. He said one final purchase sometime next year would replace the last of the old machines.
He said, while the process of updating computers in the district’s network was continuous, the computer purchase next year would be the last thing to cross off the list of scheduled improvements. Bowers said most of the work would be complete by the end of the current school year, and the remaining infrastructure work would be done by the end of the summer.
New student information system
The district will also have its new student information system running for the 2012-2013 school year, according to Bowers report. The new system, also called Tyler for Tyler Technologies, the firm the district purchased the system from, will give educators and parents the ability to track student progress, among many other functions.
The parent portal, which will also give parents another way to communicate with the district, will not be launched immediately, according to Bowers’ report. The district will use the new system to replace current systems, and the newer options will be turned on gradually over the next few years, according to the report.
Brenda Murphy, president of the board of education, said, “It truly is a change and a huge improvement over the past several years.”
New video distribution server
In an interview with Patch, Bowers said since 2008 the district had installed 125 SMART Boards, purchased 361 iPads and increased bandwidth from 13 to 53 megabits. He said there are also plans to complete a new video distribution server by the end of this month.
A video distribution server is a server and software the district owns, Bowers said.
“It’s in-house, but it works just like YouTube,” Bowers said. “So a teacher, an administrator or a student can upload content into their channel, they can share a webpage.”
Bowers said the video distribution server would create capabilities that don’t currently exist. For example, he said a teacher recently gave him a couple CDs to post on the website. The CDs will be given to the web master because he has to upload them and get the embed code.
“Going forward [the teacher will] be able to just login, load it in a couple of minutes, and then put it wherever she wants — embed it on her class blog or her class Wiki, other teachers can use it, or you can subscribe to it using RSS,” Bowers said.
MeLinda Ward, community relations director, said the technology updates were the culmination of efforts that began four to five years ago, when more than 300 community members participated in focus groups as the district prepared its master plan.
Ward said current technology was among the top priorities identified by all the groups that participated in the research. The new technology was a way of reaching many learners that maybe they couldn’t in the past, she said.
Ward said it was nice to see their staff embrace interactive technology.
“They’re enthused, they’re excited, they see what happens in the classroom and how students learn, and how it helps all of that, because differentiation is the key,” Ward said. “So I think it’s so impressing.”
She said some teachers and students were already producing videos online.
“So the nice thing about [the video distribution server] is that we’ll be able to have our own little station,” Ward said.