Changes to Accompany New R-XIII Initiative - The Missourian: Local News

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Changes to Accompany New R-XIII Initiative

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Posted: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 12:00 pm

As part of its new one-to-one student learning initiative, the St. Clair R-XIII School District is rolling out new email addresses for faculty and staff and eventually will do the same for older students.

The district also is changing its Internet domain.

The initiative, which will be phased in over the next 18 months, will put a digital device in the hands of every junior and senior high school student and will allow for access of information available at numerous and almost limitless sources besides textbooks through the World Wide Web.

The cost to initiate the program — $431,000 — was approved in June by the board of education as part of the 2013-14 budget. The money will be used to purchase 1,400 Google Chromebooks at a cost of about $300 per unit.

Google Apps for Education, a cloud-based system, will be used. Superintendent Mike Murphy said the program is more than a search engine. He also said the program has no cost to use.

As part of the initiative, teachers and students will use email more frequently to communicate and assist with the learning process. Since the program is Google based, gmail accounts will be used.

“The email transition is a thought process,” Murphy told board of education members during their July meeting last week. “And as a whole, this transitional process is beginning to take shape.”

Emails

Thirty-two district employees which include some administrators and teachers, went through three days of extensive training last week on how the Google Apps for Education program will work. They were the first to receive their new email addresses.

“We have to communicate that we have and will use this new email system as part of this initiative,” Murphy said, adding that emails from old accounts can be moved into the gmail-based system.

“You can forward any email into this new environment,” he said. “Then, you can reply out of gmail and communicate the change.”

The new R-XIII domain will be “stcmo.org.”

“It’s essential we communicate that to everyone in the community,” the superintendent said. “We have changed our domain.

The old domain was “stclair.k12.mo.us.”

Murphy said district employees will have email addresses that use the first initial of their first name followed by their last name. An example would be mmurphy@stcmo.org for Murphy.

When students receive their email addresses, they will be slightly different. They will first feature their graduating year followed by the first-name initial, full last name and the domain.

“This will be the first time we’ve ever assigned email addresses to our students,” Murphy said. “But they won’t receive their email addresses until we have everything worked out,.”

Board of education members also will receive a similar gmail address.

“As a whole, this transitional process is beginning to take shape,” Murphy said during the July board meeting. “I am very excited about the potential impact this will have on student learning outcomes.”

Initiative

As training continues, students and teachers will experiment with the Chromebooks starting in January. Murphy is hoping for full implementation at the start of the 2014-15 academic year.

Before the budget was approved last month that included the costs for the Chromebooks, the board and Murphy went through a detailed discussion about the one-to-one concept.

“Our district will deploy the first generation of one-to-one computing in the spring of the 2013-14 school year,” Murphy said in June. “This provides the opportunity for wireless connectivity at home and school and for students and staff to communicate.”

The one-to-one digital learning will be implemented in four phases, with the first being informational that will continue through October. From that point through the end of the first semester, lesson design and detailed planning for the second semester will continue.

All teachers will be trained.

“We certainly want to ease any tension in the community with what we want to accomplish with this,” Murphy told The Missourian. “This is all about devising methods to experience learning with 21st century technology.”

In January after the Christmas break, the district’s older students will receive and use their devices during the second semester as part of the third phase. At the end of the upcoming school year, the devices will be collected and the program tweaked however necessary.

The full implementation then is planned for the following fall as the fourth phase.

The R-XIII school district now is a wireless environment. That means the hard-wired computers in the school still will work but the 1,400 Chromebooks simultaneously will connect students to information.

Students will be able to access that same information in the same way at home with the Chromebooks as well as with other computers and smartphones. If Internet access isn’t available or affordable, there will be “hot areas” in the community where free access can be gained.

Some initial rules and regulations will be in place. Additional policies and procedures will be developed as the concept takes shape.

Teachers will use the technology so their lesson plans, assignments, worksheets and even tests are electronic, gradually diminishing the use and cost of paper. Students will access material through a portal with the plan to be able to log on at school or home.

“The capability is enormous,” Murphy said. “But the key element to it is connectivity. We will attempt to truly engage the teacher and student on the digital highway.”

Students will be able to access appropriate lectures and information pertaining to St. Clair’s curriculum from around the world. Teachers will facilitate that curriculum through their lesson plans.

“The potential is massive,” Murphy said.

Patrons within the district will be hearing more about the initiative in the coming months as part of the first phase.

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