Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Is it really free?

I just spent the last three hours getting two "free" computers loaded up with software that will work with our domain in our classrooms. That software will cost over $100. Despite the fact that the computers are brand new, they have only the typical specs of today's netbooks, even though they are full size computers. Let's just say, in my humble opinion: "Free is not always free, and free is not always worth it."

The key, I think, is minimum specs and to standardize, standardize, standardize. I always ask what do you want to do with the equipment and do we already have something that will do that?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Technology for Learning

Things have been so busy in the Storm Lake Community School District Technology Department that I haven't blogged in two months. Wow! I think the first entry better be the upgrades we made over the summer.  
  • Brand new wireless at the High School, capable of supporting wireless devices for every student and employee in the building
  •  Four new mobile labs of thirty laptops each, two for the High School and two for the Elementary School
  • Thirteen new Smart Boards, scattered in all four district buildings, many of which include brand new short throw projectors
  • Many new document cameras
  • Several printers for those without easy access to district copiers
  • Laptops for every High School teacher and every teacher at East making meetings, professional development, and work outside the district hugely more accessible--We will be moving towards laptops for teachers in all district buildings as the teachers' work stations age out and need replaced.
  • Updates and reimages of most of our district's almost 900 computers, work which is continuing even after school has started. That's a lot of computers!
  • More wireless access at East Early Childhood and at the Middle School
  • Network setup for MAP testing, now at the High School, the Middle School, and the Elementary School
  • Several data projectors added and several replaced
  • Two iPads for use in Elementary School Special Education
There could be more. That's off the top of my head. In addition, we did extensive professional development for educational technology. Those with new Smart Boards have held several sessions, formal and informal. The Middle School brought in McCrel for technology integration training for all their teachers. The Elementary school had a learning group that worked on web sites. The High School has held a couple training sessions to help teachers make full use of their new laptops. We've continued to train teachers in the use of Google Apps, both for themselves and for their students. Today the Elementary teachers are Skyping with an AEA person who will help them with their student blogging that they are expanding this school year.

In addition, the teachers who attended several training sessions through the AEA last year to become teacher technology leaders have been leading training and helping their fellow teachers in less formal more one on one ways to integrate technology into their classrooms.

I'm sure I'm leaving things out. That's what happens when you don't blog for two months! On the other hand, I just couldn't be prouder of the work that administration, teachers, and staff are doing to make sure that our students are using technology tools for learning. It's not easy to get groups started with student email or Google Apps or working on projects online. However, as we move forward with these instructional strategies, we see students becoming better versed in logging in, where to go, what to use, and how to use it. It's great to see the collaboration between staff and students and between students themselves.

It's a great time to be a Tornado. I promise to blog more regularly!