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Kentucky district’s ed-tech advice: Involve all stakeholders in planning

The district’s focus on ed-tech accessibility has helped it become a leader in the state of Kentucky and nationwide.

Fort Thomas Independent Schools in Kentucky has made it a priority to improve building security and efficiency, as well as student engagement and achievement, through the judicious use of technology.

This district of 2,600 students ensures adequate time for teacher professional development so they learn to become coaches and facilitators of student learning rather than simply lecturing all day, and full wireless coverage and a “bring your own device” pilot project have helped educators leverage technology’s power to enhance instruction.

The district’s focus on ed-tech accessibility has helped it become a leader in the state of Kentucky and nationwide, with 94 percent of its students from the Class of 2010 going on to college.

For these reasons, we’ve chosen Fort Thomas Independent Schools as our “eSchool District of the Month” for January. Here, Diana M. McGhee, the district’s director of technology and information, describes some of its ed-tech accomplishments and its keys to success.

(Editor’s note: To nominate your school or district for our “eSchool of the Month” feature, and to read about past winners, go to  

How do you use technology to advance student learning?

The vision of the Fort Thomas Independent Schools is to create a technological environment that will enable all students to meet state-mandated goals and objectives, to expand upon the accepted curriculum, and to allow students to enrich their educational experiences. To that end, we begin technology instruction in kindergarten and increase time and skills as the students age. Each elementary school uses Renaissance Place, Successmaker, Everyday Math, and other software programs. All schools use Encyclopedia Britannica and Follett’s Destiny Library Management program.

Have you noticed an increase in student performance and/or motivation as a result of this technology use?

When students are actively engaged in their learning, motivation does increase. We have increased our use of mobile computing and have found that student motivation has increased as well.

How do you use technology to streamline school administration and aid in decision-making? What tangible benefits have resulted?

The Fort Thomas Independent Schools expects its teachers to become effective users of technology in order to provide a learning environment that is innovative, creative, and user-friendly. Teachers should function as coaches, mentors, information managers, and, in general, as facilitators of knowledge. Teachers should have the knowledge and skills to integrate these technologies in a manner that will address students’ specific needs and learning styles. We require all teachers to have web pages and use eMail and other technology programs. We have just recently taken our professional development program online, and that program has matured through this school year.
Installing computerized HVAC systems in new buildings has resulted in more efficient air systems. Installing key card locks in new buildings has resulted in better access for all stakeholders.

How have you financed your technology initiatives—through grants? eRate funds? Local funds? Corporate partnerships? Or some combination of these techniques?

Most of our technology expenditures come from local funds. Our state education department does provide matching funds twice a year to help supplant our local expenditures. Our district also participates in the eRate program, but we are only eligible for telecommunication reimbursement at the 41-percent level. We have an active Education Foundation that provides teacher and school grants to help offset other prohibitive costs.

What initiative are you most proud of, and why?

Making wireless technology a priority in every building allows us to provide a way for students and faculty to bring their own devices to school to learn or instruct in the best way possible. Right now, we provide a limited “bring your own device” option for students and faculty. Our plan is to expand that project in the next couple of years.

What have been your biggest ed-tech challenges, and why? How have you overcome those challenges?

Time is and always will be the biggest challenge in implementing any type of new program. Finding time for professional development opportunities that reach all of our participants is difficult. Our technology department offers weekly after-school technology sessions to help combat the professional development problem, and we also plan our summer professional development opportunities around topics that will benefit the largest number of people.

What’s your best or most useful ed-tech advice for your colleagues?

Ask to be involved in decision-making procedures from all different types of stakeholders: teachers, students, administrators and parents.

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