The focus group tasked with developing a comprehenisve technology plan for the Washington School District is making progress.
Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer said the group of about 65 staff members, parents and patrons will meet again Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Technology and Learning Center.
Defining the technology tools needed for a 21st century learning environment will be a major focus of the meeting.
“We are going to talk about what we want our devices to do and prioritize our needs from high, moderate and low,” VanLeer told The Missourian.
“We’ll discuss web technology, emails, online collaboration, course management systems,” she said. “The different subgroups within our large group will be presenting some of the research they’ve been doing.”
VanLeer said the district is still waiting for the results of a technology survey completed by more than 1,300 students and about 250 parents.
“We hope to get that data soon and will discuss it at our February meeting,” she said.
Several school site visits also are being planned, the superintendent said. The group’s steering committee will make those visits and report back to the full group.
“We have a good list started of what other school districts are doing in regard to technology and are narrowing down which ones to vist,” said VanLeer, noting some are in the St. Louis area and others in the Kansas City area.
Another discussion topic Wednesday night will be on infrastructure.
“We will talk about where are we now and where do we need to be to support a technology-rich 21st century learning environment at all of our schools,” VanLeer said.
“We’re making progress, and I’m pleased with how far we’ve come,” she added. “It may seem slow to those on the outside, but there’s a great level of detail that goes into technology planning, and it’s not an easy process.”
VanLeer noted the district’s IT staff and curriculum staff are meeting weekly and the focus group’s steering committee meets at least once a month in addition to the full group sessions.
How to embrace new technology and incorporate it into the daily work environment of students and staff is “very complex,” she said, involving every department.
VanLeer says the ultimate goal is to help students become more engaged and improve their achievement levels in all areas.
Members are currently researching six aspects of the plan — communications, device selection, evaluation, funding, implementation and professional learning.
The group also is researching what other districts are doing. The Pattonville School District recently presented on its 1:1 digital learning initiative. Launched at the start of the 2012-13 school year, the initiative provides a MacBook Air laptop to every student at Pattonville High School.
Another presentation on iPad utilization in the classroom was given by two St. Francis Borgia Regional High School students. Borgia launched its iPad initiative this year where traditional textbooks have been replaced by iBooks and every student and teacher is using an iPad and stylus.
No decision has been made on whether the Washington School District would utilize laptops or some other tablet.
The steering committee also previously met with an expert in computer planning, execution and assessment.
The discussion included financial planning, infrastructure development, faculty development, curriculum integration, device procurement and end user support.