Original post from Scottsbluff Star Herald
By: Jeff Smith
A program to help Scottsbluff Public Schools with their efforts to increase their unique elements of technology will be implemented over the next upcoming years.
There will be more Chromebook carts in the school district with the Innovators Program which is a project designed to introduce the use of Chromebooks into all subject areas and classrooms.
This will also be done in conjunction with the use of Google Apps for Education. There will be different apps used and stages of adding Chromebooks to the schools. The goal is to have 15 to 16 Chromebook carts at the high school by 2018 and 24 total innovators as the teachers.
“We didn’t want to buy a bunch of devices and throw them out there,” said David Davis, technology supervisor for Scottsbluff Public Schools.
The majority of teachers and students in grades 6-12 were able to take a survey where they were able to analyze the ways technology has been used in the district. Justin Gipe, technology integration specialist for the district administered the survey. He said the nice thing about the survey was that a lot of people were able doing the things that the survey tested and this affirmed that the school was headed in the right direction.
Through the survey, the school district was rated on four different categories: environment, classroom, access and skills. The skills related to technology was labeled as advanced and access was also rated high. One hundred percent of the students responded that they can access computers when needed. Seventy percent on the students rated the Internet speed at the school above average. This was above the state average of 52 percent who said their Internet speed was above average. There is also an advanced quality of technical support with many of the problems getting fixed on the first day to the next day. Things that they need to work on is in the classroom and environment areas of the Bright Bytes survey. They are looking at increasing the discussions of technology in evaluations more frequently, increasing positive feedback from teachers using technology and increase professional development time for technology.
In the classroom section, officials are planning to have students write online more frequently, receive feedback from others in the class, use online space for documents, administer tests, post homework online, and create models, demonstrations, animations or simulations on a variety of devices.
“Learning can be even more engaging and happen even quicker,” said Gipe.
Teachers in the school district are also using assistive technology across the board so all of the students are given attention. This is done so there is differentiation in teaching with all students.
Bright Bytes was impressed by the amount of assistive technology in the school district. Gipe said some of this is having audio playback instead of having to read, enlargement on texts for screens, the new high school will have voice lift systems for the hearing impaired, and mobile sites for the site-impaired students.
In the Scottsbluff Public Schools pilot program this year, there was discussion and testing of the best type of technology for the district.
“The data we gleaned from that was pretty valuable, we found Chromebooks did fit better at the middle school, high school levels, and iPads would work better at the elementary level right now,” said Gipe.
This is part of the Innovator program that the district will buy more Chromebooks for the school district and have teachers have more development in learning technology. This is done to increase student achievement at the school.
“We always like to be on the cutting edge and push the envelope,” said Gipe.
As a result of the Innovators Program, there will be four additional Chromebook carts at Scottsbluff High School to the four Chromebooks that are at the school right now that were placed there just this last week. After that there will be an addition of more carts at the elementary schools in the school district and Bluffs Middle School. Bluffs Middle School has over 100 Chromebooks right now, there are a limited amount at the elementary schools right now and 240 at the high school. In total, the school district has about 500-600 Chromebooks.
Davis said there will be trainings for the teachers and seven teachers at Scottsbluff High School have already signed on so that there will be different meetings expectations for the Innovators.
Classes in digital citizenship will also emphasized with the new program with three additional digital citizenship lessons taking place at Scottsbluff High School this year, 20 total lessons at Scottsbluff High School next year, and 15 total lessons at Bluffs Middle School next year.
There is already a buy-in from the school environment to increase the use of technology. About 75 percent of the students believe learning is more engaging with technology, according to the study.