Connected Districts, Part 2: Prioritizing ed-tech

“Make sure that your infrastructure is bullet proof,” he said. “Solicit and endorse the voices of the teachers and the students, and, at times, go slow to go fast.”

One final, but critical, step to becoming a connected school is to “align technology goals and resources with learning objectives,” he said.

Presentation technology to boost engagement

The Alachua County Public Schools in Gainesville, Fla., began using interactive projectors to reach students and boost engagement in new ways.

Classroom teachers use the EPSON BrightLink 455Wi and 485Wi to deliver content-rich materials and lessons to students. At all levels, but particularly at the elementary level, students are excited to use the technology, thus boosting engagement, said Robert Horter, a district technology coach.

“Teachers use the projectors for math and reading stations,” Horter said. “Student groups go to the board during math stations to play online games selected through PortaPortal, working together with the two pens. The same is true of reading stations, where teacher’s link websites before class and students can practice skills without direct teacher guidance.”

Teachers use the projectors to stream and display content from partners such as Discovery Education, and student collaboration has increased as students are encouraged to collaborate and discuss content displayed so that all students are connected and able to participate in discussions and debates.

A one-to-one iPad initiative was deployed in one of the district’s elementary schools fifth grade classes, and students participate in internet safety training.

Professional development is an essential part of supporting any technology initiative, and all teachers in the district have participated in professional development that accompanies the digital content and digital tools in classrooms.

One of the district’s biggest challenges has been helping teachers adjust to and accept change in the classroom.

“That was initially a big change for teachers, but the upgrade in technology was well worth it,” Horter said.

It is most important for administrators and teachers to remember that “technology is a great tool to enhance teaching and learning,” but that it is only a tool, Horter said. Teachers must know how to use it, be comfortable with it, but should strive to focus on excellent content and teaching practices.

Laura Ascione

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