As we welcome the New Year, we have been working hard deploying new technology around the district. With the addition of the new middle school, technology has changed significantly from what our teachers were used to at Phillips Middle School and Fair Oaks Middle School. No more are their open computer labs where teachers pick up their materials and take their classes to the labs. Now computer labs are rolled into their classrooms, making it much more convenient. Wireless networking has allowed us to put a computer lab on wheels, and new devices like the Samsung Chromebooks allow for the devices to be used all day on a single battery charge.
Chromebooks are very affordable devices, and rely on access to the Internet for their applications. No more are we running around installing the latest app or plugin on a Chromebook, since all of that is done automatically and behind the scenes. When a teacher finds a new app to use with their students, we check a box and all of their Chromebooks are updated. Should a device be damaged, nothing is lost. All of the student data is stored “in the cloud.” They can log in on another Chromebook, another computer around the district, or at home on almost any Internet connected device (tablet, phone or computer, mac, pc or android) and retrieve their work. This is allowing students to work from anywhere, anytime on basically any device. We have also deployed Chromebooks at Fort Dodge Senior High, with great feedback coming from both buildings.
We are also piloting some very new technology, again coming from Google, in the form of tablets. These tables are about the same size as the iPad Mini, but at a significantly cheaper cost. Benefits of these new devices are the ease of management and app deployment. A teacher can find a new app for class, and in a matter of minutes have that app deployed to their set of devices. App deployment has been a difficult task on the iPad, when we are talking more than a couple of devices. As this pilot evolves, we will see how these new devices will fit into our overall plan for technology integration into the classroom.
Our Internet traffic across the district has certainly noticed these new devices, and we continue to use every bit of available Internet bandwidth that is available. When students return in January, we will have completed a significant upgrade to our Internet access. The district is also beginning to adjust our content filters, and slowly allow access to more and more sites that would have been blocked in the past, allowing them to be integrated in the curriculum. All of this technology relies on a robust and stable wired and wireless network to provide access. We have been working to upgrade those systems as well. We are focusing on our infrastructure updates next to Fort Dodge Senior High, but a majority of those changes won’t be implemented until our summer 2014 Break.