Tech Equity: It’s not just for kids

Posted by Bob Price on November 28, 2011

Like most districts, we want our teachers to have access to powerful instructional technology.  And, like most districts, technology purchases for us have been made with a mix of limited district funds, some grants, and site categorical funds.  This has led to a situation where there are haves and have nots in terms of access to instructional technology.  A recent grant allowing for most of our math classes to have access to Promethean Boards caused our teachers of other subjects and grade levels to ask about access to these powerful technology tools.  When we took an inventory of the technological tools available to our teachers, we were surprised at the discrepancies across the district.  Our classrooms ran the gamut from full Promethean tools with document cameras to a single overhead projector sitting in a corner.  We realized we had a serious equity problem.

Our model of allowing sites to drive the educational technology available in classrooms had created a situation where student and teacher access technology varied dramatically.  A student could experience a relatively rich or embarrassingly poor access to technology tools depending on the luck of what teacher he/she was assigned to.  It was possible for students to spend their entire K-8 careers having only had access to teachers with an overhead projector.  Or they could be the lucky ones that had teachers with state-of-the-art technology.  This unacceptable situation led us to initiate our Tech Equity Project for teachers.

Utilizing a highly motivated Tech Vision Team, we developed minimum standards for technology for teachers.  After much discussion, it was decided that each classroom should be equipped with a teacher laptop, sound system, smart projector and document camera.  Funding for equipment would come from excess bond funds.  Sites agreed to pay for maintenance, repairs and supplies with the funds they were allocating previously to purchase hardware.  Our Tech Vision Team members offered to provide the necessary professional development at their sites in exchange for access to new technologies.  After much planning, meeting with vendors, and individual meetings with teachers and principals, our vision will be realized when teachers return from Winter break.

The next step in our vision will be the issue of equity of student access.  We have the same problem of haves and have nots with student technology.  Our goal will be to have all classrooms with an internet device available for all students within the next two years.  Whether that device will be a notebook, netbook, or tablet has yet to be decided.

The other big issue for us is whether our teachers will utilize all of this technology in powerful ways to improve student achievement.  One thing is certain.  No one will implement technology they do not have.  We are looking forward to the next steps in our journey.  Parent, teacher, and community support for our Tech Equity Initiative has been overwhelmingly positive.

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Keeping Our Netbooks…for now!

Posted by Jim Yeager on February 14, 2011

As my iPad and I get more acquainted, I find myself analyzing its place in my instructional technology program.  For example, one of the cornerstones of our program is a modified 1-to-1 netbook project with fourth grade.  We utilize a toolbox that consists of a word processor, a presentation application, a spreadsheet, and the Internet.  A typical activity will call for the students to brainstorm in their word processor, create a presentation, and work with some data.  Often they do simple research or get their instructions from the Internet.

My teachers utilize shared learning spaces to share assignments, links, and prompts.  Many times students share documents with classmates and the teacher.  These fourth graders have become amazingly proficient with Google Docs and can manage several applications at one time.  My teachers and I can readily create tasks that not only address content standards, but offer connections to NETS standards as well.

For personal use, the iPad is my favorite information consumption device.  I keep it handy for tasks that range from educational research to Angry Birds.  I could see it replacing our textbooks, but at the moment, I can’t see replacing my $300 netbooks for our projects that call for student-directed research, collaboration, and creativity.  For now, I’ll wait and see what the next generation iPad, or its competitor, has to offer.

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