by Luke Francois
As part of a four-part series, the fourth and final focus area of the District’s strategic plan focuses on technology. Technology is continuously changing, forcing the District to adapt to the ever changing needs of students and their abilities to enhance learning using the most current technology available. The District submits a three-year technology plan to the Department of Public Instruction. Following school board approval of the plan the district implements goals to increase the leverage that technology can bring to classrooms.
The first technology goal in the strategic plan was to create a robust infrastructure to ensure that teachers and students had constant connectivity to technology and resources. Over the past four years the District has replaced the main core and closet switches and backed up the system with power supplies and redundancy to ensure that data is always accessible and backed up. Next the District increased broadband access and replaced CAT 5 wiring from the closet switches to the main core with fiber to increase the speed of systems across the District using internet.
After the core infrastructure was in place standardization of classrooms ensured that every classroom had a SMART Board, document camera, and access to a response system to collect students’ answers to questions electronically. Once classrooms were standardized the District moved to a wireless environment. Through a wireless audit, areas without Wi-Fi access were identified and access points were put in place to ensure there were no ‘dead spots’ in either building of the District.
A strong technology plan is more than just hardware in a closet. Once a wireless system was in place a one-to-one environment was implemented allowing for each freshman through senior to receive a Chromebook device to connect to the internet while in class or at home. As a result, students received an enhanced opportunity to receive online courses and courses offered through telepresence. The District utilizes technology instructional coaches Kris McCoy and Kari Kabat to support technology integration and 1:1 initiatives for students and teachers. The District plans to expand the 1:1 initiative to include the middle school and elementary school commencing with the 2016-2017 school year.
The goals of the district include McCoy and Kabat supporting teachers in technology integration and shifting instruction and assessment toward the 4Cs (critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity). By the end of the 2015-16 school year, 100% of teachers will be able to identify the 4 Cs of technology integration and have implemented the Cs into the classroom. Digital citizenship, or a framework for the proper use of technology, will also be developed to increase student and staff knowledge and skills.
The future of technology in Mineral Point Schools finds increases in course content through more online learning and telepresence offerings, additional wireless access points in common use areas, and developing a replacement cycle for all devices including Chromebooks, SMART Boards, and computer labs. Fiber will be brought into the building directly from Highway 151 to allow for 1GB of broadband connectivity thereby ensuring that Mineral Point Schools will have more than enough bandwidth for years to come at a substantially lower annual cost than the current plan using a communications vendor as an internet carrier.
Technology is a tool that enhances student learning and at Mineral Point Schools this tool is being leveraged to its full capacity.