Indiana’s Crothersville Community School Corporation (CCSC) recognizes that technology is an important tool for helping students embrace learning. The district has used creative solutions to finance its ed-tech priorities, and a wireless virtual desktop solution helps keep support time to as minimum, so IT staff can focus on applications for teaching and learning.
For these reasons and more, we’ve chosen CCSC as our “eSchools of the Month” for September. Here, Assistant Principal Drew Markel describes some of the district’s accomplishments and its keys to ed-tech success.
(Editor’s note: To nominate your school or district for our “eSchool of the Month” feature, go to http://www.eschoolnews.com/eschool-of-the-month.)
How does your district use technology to advance student learning?
Since 2007, the Crothersville Community School Corporation has been focused on one goal: increasing student engagement through the use of interactive technology. CCSC moved from having a meager technology presence to installing a state-of-the-art wireless virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).
In 2008, improvements were made to boost CCSC’s classroom interactivity with Promethean ACTIVboards and student response systems. To begin its one-to-one engagement program, CCSC in 2010 installed a complete corporation-wide Cisco wireless system. This infrastructure set the stage for a one-to-one Android-based tablet deployment using the KUNO tablet from UwriteTouch. We paired this with CurriculumLoft Explore to provide a truly personalized online digital curriculum.
This infrastructure is complemented by a complete virtual desktop solution using Wyse Thin Clients and a Cisco and EMC storage backbone.
Has your district noticed an increase in student performance and/or motivation as a result of this technology use? If so, how?
Student performance and motivation have increased as a result of the administration’s and staff’s commitment to integrate technology into classroom learning. The use of student response systems lets teachers quickly identify skills and concepts that students are able to grasp, and make immediate modifications in instructional delivery if results show a lack of understanding.
Promethean ACTIVboards enable teachers to engage students in learning by allowing them to use programs that make learning fun and exciting. Because students already have a plethora of personal handheld devices that they use daily, such as iPads, iPods, and Android devices, the KUNO Mobile Tablet was an easy way to integrate technology into the school day. The district’s administration lets students personalize their KUNO tablets with music and apps, which makes the device more appealing for students to use in the learning process. Parents have access to student grades, attendance, and discipline reports through the Harmony Student Information System, an online grade portal.
How does your district use technology to streamline school administration and aid in decision-making?
CCSC has a steering committee at the elementary and junior/senior high school, as well as a technology council that meets to discuss CCSC’s needs. Acuity, a program offered by CTB/McGraw-Hill, lets teachers and administration assess student skills, and it helps teachers provide support in areas where students might need improvement. Teachers in the elementary school use Essential Skills and Study Island for reinforcement and remediation.
Data-based decision making is essential in determining program effectiveness. Staff members meet regularly to pull information on the Promethean ACTIVboards from computer-based assessment programs. They use that information to help teachers modify instruction in the classroom, based on student needs. Five-Star Technologies provides CCSC with a Student Data Analysis system that shows student progress on a number of assessments over a course of many years. Teachers use iPads to assess primary students’ reading and math skills with programs including mClass Reading and mClass Math.
Has your district realized an increase in efficiency, a savings in administrative costs, a boost in staff or student performance, or some other tangible benefits as a result of this technology use? If so, how?
CCSC has seen numerous benefits resulting from the implementation of technology within the corporation. Prior to the use of virtualization, the district outsourced most of its technology-related repair and management issues. Virtualization has allowed those staff members who would routinely fix and develop new repair channels to work on digital curriculum and devote more time to developing classroom instruction. The VDI solution brings all PC maintenance to the data center, allowing for less “run” time by technology staff.
Student use of mobile technology is growing fast. Schools must align themselves with commonly-used forms of technology to gain interest from their student population. When CCSC decided to go with a touch-screen tablet solution, the kids were extremely excited.
How has your district financed its technology initiatives?
There have been many funding areas that CCSC has explored. During the country’s fiscal downturn, CCSC was able to leverage historically low bond rates and invest in technology at a time when technology was progressing rapidly. There also must be complete support from everyone within the corporation, because large technology deployments can be extremely resource-intensive.
CCSC has used numerous grants to explore new initiatives, and the district was able to implement a one-to-one computing environment in all English classrooms through the use of a grant obtained from the Indiana Department of Education. CCSC also applied for a classroom innovation grant through the Indiana Department of Education. CCSC was not funded during the first funding cycle, but this opportunity taught us invaluable skills when it comes to writing highly competitive grants. CCSC also leverages all e-Rate-eligible programs available to the school corporation.
CCSC used a Cisco lease program this year for the first time in the history of the district. This lease let us install $500,000 worth of equipment for a marginal 1-percent lease term. It also let us complete a huge infrastructure overhaul with the meager budget that we had available. CCSC also has worked with numerous corporate partners within the county and state to provide educational opportunities that help develop a better workforce for these partners.
What ed-tech initiative are you most proud of, and why?
There are many initiatives and projects that CCSC is proud to showcase. The project that has garnered the most attention and interest in the school community is the virtual desktop initiative. This initiative is a very forward-thinking technology deployment. CCSC believes that leveraging new technology to allow for better service is pivotal in bringing a well-managed solution to the corporation and each classroom. CCSC believes that schools must be heavily vested in new technology and keep the equipment refresh cycle current.
What have been your biggest challenges in integrating technology into classrooms and school processes, and why? How have you overcome those challenges?
CCSC’s administration, parents, and students have wholeheartedly embraced the district’s technological advances with little, if any, resistance. However, there are a couple of challenges that CCSC continues to address to make the technology integration as smooth and painless as possible. One challenge has been finding time to train all staff members on not just using the technology in the classroom, but effectively integrating it into classroom instruction. We have faced this challenge by having Wednesday “Tech Days.” These are opportunities for all staff members to present questions for all other staff members, who frequently learn from those questions. We also have scheduled times and topics covering both basic and advanced technology topics.
What’s your best ed-tech advice for your colleagues?
Visiting other educational institutions is a key part in staying up to date on the latest technological trends in education. If you are a K-12 administrator, don’t rule out visiting other corporations and universities. CCSC has gained great partnerships with different colleges across the country in regards to technology. Many institutions of higher education have more funding to better study cutting-edge technology.
Enroll or become a member of your state technology association. Indiana has a very well-managed group of technology directors known as the Hoosier Educational Computer Coordinators. This group communicates across the state through the use of a listserv and is an invaluable tool for all technology coordinators in Indiana.
CCSC holds its own technology conference each year. This year’s “Tiger Tech Fair” attracted more than 25 vendors and 200 participants to the small campus of the Crothersville Community Schools. Having a conference allows all stakeholders in the community and state to visit and have a hands-on interaction with the latest equipment that is available in the state.
Additional information about your experience:
The Crothersville Community School Corporation has stayed on the forefront of technology in education. The board of school trustees has always embraced new technology and curriculum. The aimed to to develop a managed 1:1 deployment that would allow students to take their devices home and still have content available to them without wireless access. Many of our students are below poverty level and do not have access to Internet. Our rural location also comes into play at CCSC with many students being outside of broadband internet access.
Having a great staff and administration has helped push the Crothersville Community School Corporation forward technologically, even during these tough economic times.
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