How have you financed your technology initiatives?
As a public school, HOPE receives more than 95 percent of its funding from the state of Colorado. Other funds are obtained by applying for grants. In 2010-11, HOPE received $38,000 in eRate funding. Our eRate funds supported our telecommunications expenses, including smart phones to keep our teachers and technology experts connected and alert to the needs of students.
What initiative are you most proud of, and why?
We are most proud of launching the very first hybrid K-12 school. HOPE’s at-risk student population has benefitted from a blended learning model that combines the support of face-to-face instruction and a self-paced, technology-based curriculum. The proudest moments are seeing students who did not believe they could do well in school learn to believe in themselves and attain educational success, in large part owing to their ability to move at their own pace. We have graduated more than 600 students, many of whom were at risk of dropping out or never imagined being able to earn their high school diploma.
What have been your biggest ed-tech challenges, and how have you overcome these?
One of our largest challenges was overcoming our students’ lack of computer and internet access at home, which made the integration of technology into our classrooms (Learning Centers) all the more important. As we integrated technology into our classrooms, we made sure that the technology we chose fit our multi-grade classroom model. HOPE is dedicated to keeping classes small to make sure each student receives individualized help. HOPE students in the same classroom might be working at different levels in different subjects or might be at various points in the same lesson, but without the right technology, keeping track of the progress of each student in a class could be overwhelming. A professional development program was created at HOPE to address how best to manage the capabilities of classroom technology, as well as share best practices among instructors.
What’s your best advice for colleagues?
The use of technology in education supports, but does not supplant, high-quality instruction by teachers. Improving student performance is the goal of teacher instruction that incorporates technology-based curriculum, robust assessments, and data management and analysis systems. The ability to read and analyze data will help any educator or administrator understand the effectiveness of any technology and its impact on student performance.