The purpose of the Meramec Valley R-III School District’s technology department is to integrate the use of computers into all areas of the district, according to Debby Haley, technology director.
Haley presented a 50-page report to the school board Dec. 19 that spelled out the reach of computer technology in district learning, student-parent-teacher communication, professional development and records.
She leads a staff of five, including Scott Kovis, instructional facilitator, Doug Howard network support, Mike McAtee, technology support, Justin King technology support, and Joyce Walker, webmaster.
To meet the district’s comprehensive school improvement plan (CSIP) goal, the technology crew develops policies, allocates funds and searches out learning programs.
The tech program strives to help learners to build a foundation for college and career readiness. This goes beyond technology for students and includes class preparation, professional development, administration and tech support.
The technology crew oversees programs that teach everyone how to use computers, finds the latest programs that enable users to get the most out of computers and maintain the wires and Wi-Fi that keep information flowing throughout the district.
For young computer users this means a continuous stream of new ways for every student to use technology to learn.
Teachers are offered new approaches to using technology to build lesson plans.
In addition to having computers in the hands of every student, Haley’s department keeps up a long-term process for upgrading and replacing technology throughout the district.
This can be intricate as the tech crew continually updates switches, routers, access points, services and wiring in all buildings.
To assure that all bases are covered, the department is overseen by a 34-member technology committee, which Haley chairs, with representatives from each building.
This committee not only looks at how technology is used now, but at how technology will look in the future to provide the best education for students.
At one time, the state education department required all districts in the state to submit technology plans. That is no longer a requirement, but Haley said her department will continue to produce a three-year plan that aligns technology with the comprehensive school improvement plan.
The technology department supports 3,200 students, 268 certified staff and 169 building support staff, using 3,900 devices, including desktop computers, laptops, tablets, Chromebooks, copiers/printers, projectors and interactive whiteboards.
The newest gem of the technology program is the 1:1 Initiative that placed 1,700 Chromebooks in the hands of students, which the department repairs, maintains and supports. The program is going into its second year.
An extensive series of surveys included in the report showed what students, parents, teachers and staff like and don’t like about the take-home computers.
Teachers indicated that they see higher student engagement, student collaboration, creativity and completed homework with the use of Chromebooks.
Parents said Chromebooks help their child do homework and improved their organization and study habits.
Students said classes are more interesting, they collaborate with other students, feel more creative and using their Chromebook helped with homework.
The tech department also oversees a continuous stream of professional development to keep teachers, administrators and its own members trained on the newest technology practices.
Teachers can sign up for Technology Collaboration Visits, individualized assistance on a topic meaningful to them.
The department keeps an eye on how computers are used. They keep a list of procedures and guidelines on computer usage within the district that apply to parent/guardian, teachers and students.
Parents can log onto a Parent Portal to receive weekly notifications of their child’s internet usage on the Chromebooks and control what their child can access on the Chromebook outside school hours.
The report showed that technology usage is increasing. Students using Google Drive to access course work and communicate with teachers averaged 2,500 logins per day this school year, which was up from 1,800 logins per day last year.
During the 2017-18 school year, the district will spend a total of $1.1 million for technology on salaries, benefits, new purchases and supplies.
While Haley’s report identified much room for the best use of computers to grow, her concluding recommendation was that the district continue to monitor and evaluate the progress of technology to provide the tools, resources and training needed for district students to be college and career ready.