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Board of Education approves acquisition of computer devices for students

Initiative to Enhance Classroom Learning

At its meeting on Monday, March 18, the Board of Education approved the acquisition of additional computer devices to enhance classroom learning for students. The decision is based on the results of a detailed pilot program and recommendation from the district’s technology committee.

Beginning with the 2019-20 school year, students in grades 6-12 will be assigned a computer device to support and augment their learning. Beginning with the 2020-21 school year, every elementary classroom will have a set of devices to support quality instruction.

Students working on laptops in a classroom setting. Background
The Board of Education directed the school district at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year to move forward with a computer pilot to evaluate the instructional impact of providing one device per student.

The purpose of the pilot was to study increased technology access and its effects on enhancing educational experiences and opportunities. The feedback and data collected from teachers and students during the program were presented to the Board for consideration on March 18.

A cross section of twenty-one teachers at all instructional levels utilized new devices in their classrooms over the course of several months to help determine which would best meet the educational needs of students. Those devices included iPads, MacBook Air laptops, and Dell Latitude laptops.

The data and experiences from the computer pilot will help create the spark to facilitate innovation in classrooms across the system, moving from a model of simply replacing technology to one that enhances and supports quality learning in an effort to meet the district’s Technology Focus Priority Standards.

For the purpose of the pilot, priority technology standards were identified and include: 

Standard 2.3: Students use technology to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.

Standard 4.1: Students use technology to formulate a deliberate design process and generate new ideas.

Standard 4.3: Students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources relevant to their intellectual or creative pursuits.

Standard 4.5: Students will use technology to create original work.

Standard 4.6: Students will use technology to generate solutions to real-world problems.

The current technology standards were developed through the district’s technology committee, a group comprised of community members, administrators, staff and students. The group assisted in establishing the district technology vision where technology is viewed as a tool for assisting students and teachers with curriculum and instruction. The updated standards/goals for students and teachers were created over the course of two years, which were then utilized in the recent computer pilot.

Two students using iPads to code and control a robotic device. The pilot concluded at the end of February 2019 and helped answer the following questions for the Board of Education:

  • Should the District acquire more devices for students to use in classrooms?
  • Which devices would supply the greatest functionality and durability to best meet the needs of students?
  • Which grade levels would best utilize the technology in a 1:1 model?
  • Will increased access to technology move students beyond consumers of technology to also become creators and innovators?

Outcome
The technology committee reviewed the quantitative and qualitative data collected from the pilot program, which includes more than 3,700 survey responses. The following recommendations were presented to the Board of Education and approved.

Beginning with the 2019-20 school year:

  • MacBook Air laptops for students in grades 6-12; and
  • MacBook Air laptops for teachers.

Beginning with the 2020-21 school year:

  • Classroom sets of iPads will be available for students in grades K-2; and
  • Classroom sets of MacBook Air laptops will be available for students in grades 3-5.

The acquisition of additional devices will utilize capital outlay funds through a lease-purchase agreement. Devices at the secondary level will be available under a take-home model for students. Parents will have the choice to opt-out of the take-home model. Devices at the elementary level will be classroom sets, only. 

Currently, the school district spends approximately $1 million annually on existing leases/purchases for 3,623 student and teacher devices. The existing leases are at or near end of term. Once the new lease/purchase agreements are in place, the district will spend approximately $1.99 million for 8,200 devices (includes teacher devices and spare/replacement devices). The long-range financial plan includes a four-year rotation of devices over the next ten years with appropriate price increases. The district will have the option of keeping the devices at the end of each term or trading them in to leverage residual value.

Education icon showing books and a globe. Current Device/Student Ratios
The computer pilot confirmed that quality instruction in classrooms is impacted by the lack of an appropriate number of devices for students. The greatest need is at the secondary level (middle and high schools) where the number of devices ranges from 2.17 to 3.09 students per device. The ratio is smaller at the elementary level with an average of 1.5 students per device. Additional devices will allow for more efficient and meaningful classroom instruction when teachers and students utilize technology.

Icon showing a hand on a blue background. Security, Policies & Procedures
The school district is working to finalize policies and procedures surrounding the student use of devices through a take-home model (secondary level only), which will include details about warranties, insurance and repairs. Parents will have the choice to opt-out of the take-home model.

Information will be provided to parents regarding device security and software to help protect students around the clock from inappropriate content and apps.  Apple products, especially those built for education, have privacy features and controls built in, allowing the district to deploy strict computing policies; block or limit specific apps and features on devices; and block certain apps or web pages.

Logo for securly. The district partners with Securly to provide online protection to students at school, in the classroom, and at home. Teachers will ensure that devices are used appropriately in the classroom to support quality learning when devices are needed. More information will be coming soon.

Bring Your Own Device Update
The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program was implemented in 2014 as a way to help increase student access to technology in the classroom when the district’s students-to-device ratio was greater than 4:1. The Board of Education worked with administration to develop a strategic plan to acquire more devices for students over the course of four years, beginning in 2015.

Now that the district will be investing in additional computer devices, BYOD will come to an end. Students will use school-provided devices to support their educational experiences. Teachers will be able to plan more effective lessons knowing that student devices will be the same day to day, as opposed to the BYOD model when device types and operating systems varied widely. Plus, the district will be able to provide a more robust and consistent level of content filtering and protection for school-owned devices versus personal devices.

People icon with two persons in silhouette. Professional Development & Technology Support
With the increase in the number of devices across the system, there will be a need for ongoing professional development for teachers and additional technical support to ensure an optimum experience and device “up time” for students and staff. As such, the district recommended to the Board of Education the addition of two district improvement specialists who will work with teachers daily to support sound instructional strategies, beginning with the 2019-20 school year. The recommendation also includes adding two additional technical support positions. Funding for the additional positions will come from the district’s general fund thanks to operational efficiencies the district has realized, as well as increased funding from the state.

Long-term Planning
Over the last six years, the board discussed the necessity of providing students meaningful access to technology through strategic, long-term planning. It took deliberate steps during that time to maximize the efficient use of resources to address technology infrastructure and the replacement of critically-aged devices.

Timeline

  • 2012 – Board of Education identified need to address state of the district’s core computer network infrastructure.
  • 2013 – Work began to refresh core computer network infrastructure to replace aged equipment and prepare district to meet future technology needs of students.
  • 2014 – District announced Bring Your Own Device program to help increase student use of technology in classrooms.
  • 2015 – Board of Education approved new technology replacement strategy (long-term planning) and first acquisition of new devices to replace student computers that had been in use for eight to eleven years.
  • 2016 – Board of Education approved next acquisition of student devices to continue replacement of aged computers; added some additional devices.
  • 2017 – Board of Education approved third acquisition of devices for key areas of need that were not addressed in previous purchases.
  • 2017 – Board of Education began discussions with administration to explore feasibility of providing one computing device per student and whether the strategy would positively impact educational experiences and opportunities.
  • 2018 – Board of Education approved acquisition of computing devices for the purpose of a Computer Pilot Program during the 2018-19 school year. The district identified a cross section of teachers at all levels to participate in the pilot program.
  • 2019 – Data from pilot program was presented to Board of Education on March 18. The Board decided to increase classroom technology devices beginning with the 2019-20 school year.