Technological fluency–once considered optional–is required of every student, teacher, and staff member in the district, while the district’s world-class use of technology contributes to enhanced student learning; expanded delivery of curriculum through improved teacher tools that are readily available for the teachable moment; effective collaboration among students, teachers, and parents; dynamic communications between the district and the community; and informed and timely decisions regarding student performance.
District voters passed a $30 million technology levy referendum in 2002. Teachers who receive new technologies in their classrooms agree to intensive staff development. Many teacher tools are interactive, and more than a third of district classrooms are equipped with an interactive whiteboard, computer, video system, and projection unit, in addition to a sound system that supports voice distribution. Scanners, flex cams, digital cameras, wireless laptop sets, and classroom web sites extend classrooms beyond traditional walls.
Interaction among schools, parents, and teachers is another priority. Teachers maintain weekly information for parents on the internet, which provides access to homework, classroom newsletters and announcements, attendance, lunch accounts, and–at the secondary level–grades. The Connect-Ed calling system is a favorite tool for principals and parents. The system lets building principals record messages for both emergency situations and school event reminders. TurnLeaf, an assessment and data-mining tool, is currently being deployed to all principals and eventually will provide teachers with easily accessible assessment data.
William E. Roberts is the superintendent of Nye County School District in Nevada. He is a former principal of three secondary schools and a career Army Lieutenant Colonel.
Approximately the size of Indiana, the 6,200-student Nye County School District is comprised of seven widely separated communities. Superintendent William “Rob” Roberts, a former West Point instructor and Vietnam-era helicopter pilot, has utilized technology to overcome barriers of time, space, and money to provide more efficient administration and better educational opportunities for the district’s students.
Compressed video systems have been installed in all district towns, giving residents access to the bi-monthly Board of Trustees’ meetings. This has negated the need for rotating meetings among the various towns and has resulted in huge cost savings in terms of fuel, lodging, and time, as well as allowing more citizens to attend board meetings. Interactive web sites have given residents immediate access to board policies and school information. The compressed video systems also have permitted hundreds of students from the district’s five high schools to access dual-credit classes offered by the Community College of Southern Nevada, giving students in very rural areas access to college classes.
Although Nevada ranks in the lowest 10 percent of all states in terms of state aid to education, the district has used donations, grants, and payments in lieu of taxes from the county commission to replace most obsolete computers and place at least one new computer lab in each school. By adopting a new student information system, the district has been able to provide parents with up-to-the-minute access to their students’ grades and attendance records. The computerized Standards Master system is used to administer quarterly assessments to students in math and reading, enabling teachers to track performance and begin necessary remediation. And computerized remedial programs help those children who have fallen behind in math and reading as part of the district’s technology and school improvement plans.
In short, technology has been used to streamline administration, provide information, and enhance educational opportunities for all students, staff and stakeholders of the Nye County schools.
Deborah L. Sommer has been superintendent of the Canby School District in Oregon since 1999. She received her Ed.D. degree in Educational Administration, Curriculum, and Instruction from Portland State University and has held a variety of teaching and administrative positions over her 30 years in public education. She also currently serves as adjunct faculty member at Portland State University.
Using strategic technology planning and staff management, Superintendent Deborah Sommer helps keep Oregon’s Canby School District well ahead of the technology curve. Last year, Sommer distributed laptop computers to every teacher in the district, providing the tools and support staff necessary to make the transition smooth for all stakeholders.
The district’s web-based student management system allows teachers to publish student attendance, grades, and comments online, and it also manages all district special-education information and allows for seamless staff communication and instant access to instructional information. All buildings are wireless, and district staff members are able to access internet resources, curriculum, media, student/staff folders, and student information from anywhere in the district or at home. School board policy requires every teacher to maintain and update a staff home page and blog. All district teachers receive subject-specific technology coaching every Tuesday and Thursday.
Sommer ensures that technology resources are equitably distributed and insists on adequate professional development. All Canby schools have technology advisory councils to help support staff and students in technology planning.
Sommer works with administration, community members, and school staff to help everyone understand the role of technology in the district’s learning environment. Ten Canby teams of amateur engineers, ages 9-14, are participating in the FIRST Lego Robotics program this year, and more than 50 students are participating as Student Argonauts in this year’s JASON Project. Sommer’s out-of-the-box thinking has enabled her to make plans to eliminate long-term challenges and create more instructional opportunities in the district.