Calling computers “thinking tools for students,” DiRocco and his staff believe that computers should be used as often as possible to retrieve, store, sort, manipulate, and synthesize information to solve problems and increase knowledge. The emergence of the web has allowed for tremendous opportunities for students to stretch their learning well beyond the classroom, says DiRocco: “Students are motivated to use technology in this digital age, and our school district is committed to providing this venue for thinking and expression for the success of our students.”
To facilitate this thinking, teachers across the district are provided with a new computer every three years and receive between six and 12 hours of technology-related training each year. The district has initiated a “train-the-trainer” program where selected teachers learn how to use a particular software program, develop lesson plans that integrate that software into their curriculum, and then train other teachers. The district also has worked to put the appropriate infrastructure in place, purchasing its own fiber-optic network that allows high-speed servers to operate over its IP phone system, school eMail system, and district web site.
In addition to the typical school district uses of technology, DiRocco and his staff have implemented a computerized in-service evaluation system for staff members to provide feedback on in-service programs in the district. They also have developed and implemented a program of Quarterly Curriculum-Based Assessments to track individual student progress in the classroom, providing data to determine student remediation needs. All communications from the superintendent’s office are via eMail. Every student and staff member (including aides, secretaries, and custodians) has an eMail address and access to a computer, which DiRocco requires they check at least once every 24 hours.
Through the district web site, administrators communicate both immediate and long-term information that is of interest to students, parents, community, and visitors. DiRocco says the hope is that by embracing technology, the district will better serve its students, staff, and community.
Lewis Holloway is superintendent of the 11,000-student Clarke County School District in Athens, Ga., a position he has held since 2000. In addition to serving as a superintendent in four states, he has been an elementary school principal, high school principal, and a math teacher.
Under the leadership of Superintendent Lewis Holloway, the Clarke County School District in Athens, Ga., has undergone a transformation in the way it leverages technology to accomplish its goals. Whether striving to support instruction in the classroom, facilitate decisions by district leaders, or drive efficiency in important business processes, faculty, staff, and students at every level of the school system rely on technology to help them reach their potential.
Currently, the district provides a laptop computer for every teacher, counselor, media specialist, administrator, and board member. Wireless laptop carts are stationed in every school to bring the technology into the classroom. Each school and administrative location is connected to the district data center and the internet via high-speed fiber-optic cabling. Interactive whiteboards and mounted projection systems are installed in at least 300 classrooms, with the goal of outfitting every classroom in the district within the next two years. An online high school gives students who have struggled in the traditional classroom setting a chance to earn their degree by alternative means. Students in traditional classrooms also can use the online model to recover credits for courses they’ve failed.
Elsewhere across the district, iPods and podcasting technologies are being used to reinforce language skills for English Language Learners, and a new Cisco IP telephone system provides a voice-mail box for teachers to communicate better with parents.
“We believe that technology supports and empowers human potential, and that belief drives how we use technology on a daily basis to support instruction in the classroom, decisions by our leaders, and to drive efficiency in our business processes,” said Holloway.
James Hoyle has dedicated the past 35 years to education, working as a teacher, coach, director of secondary education, and superintendent of Plaquemines Parish Schools in Louisiana. He is grateful for the many opportunities he has been given to serve his community.
Facing unimaginable devastation in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Superintendent James Hoyle and his staff at the Plaquemines Parish School System in Louisiana have turned their sights to rebuilding. Though the school system currently is equipped to handle about half of the students it enrolled before the disaster, Hoyle says technology remains an integral part of the district’s central mission and will play an immediate role as the community embarks on the slow and painful process of recovery.