Eastwood's ELearning to accelerate learning
Written by CINDY HARTER Sentinel Staff Writer
Wednesday, 30 May 2012 09:00
LUCKEY - The Eastwood School District is well on its way to new technology that will dramatically change the way its students learn.
Superintendent Brent Welker unveiled his recommendations for the district's eLearning project Wednesday evening and the Eastwood School Board approved a resolution to implement them.
"ELearning will allow learning to take place anytime-anywhere," said Welker. He referred to Author Jim Collin's book "Good to Great" that refers to technology as an accelerator.
"If students must pass academic standards," Welker added. "What will happen when we accelerate these (referring to tougher academic standards on the horizon)? We believe technology can be that accelerator."
The plan had already begun to be phased in with the hiring of eLearning Director Elizabeth Hood last month. In addition the board approved four one-year supplemental contracts Wednesday to Deb Streaker, Jennifer Griffith, Cynthia Stanfield and Richard Morgan who will be the eLearning consultants (eLCs) assisting Hood for the upcoming year. The eLCs represent both the middle and high schools.
The five will implement the plan developed by a core committee made up of staff, board members, parents and administration. The group began meeting last year and has also done several site visits to look at other eLearning programs. Their focus is on making students "digital citizens" by meeting students where they live; making students thinkers, not just those who remember facts; and aligning with new assessments which will require fluency with technology for all students.
"The committee focused on the needs of staff and students and how to implement the plan," Welker said. "The solutions really take the staff to heart."
His recommendations included: All 5-12 staff will develop companion websites by August 2013 for their classes to include a syllabus, classroom objectives, target online resources, homework and interactive features; Enhance classroom instruction using web 2.0 tools; and students in grades 8-12 will receive a district-purchased pc laptop (around $550 each) in 2013.The district's current high school technology will move to grades K-7. There will be improved fiber connections and increased wireless density (doubled) to handle the load.
Phase one is already underway with the hiring of Hood and the four eLCs. They will coordinate all professional development needed to help staff meet the new guidelines. Laptops have been purchased for staff. Summer institutes are being scheduled for staff including two days each in June, July and August.
"The eLCs will extensively assist with the summer institutes," Welker said. "Betsy will do a lot of sessions and lab times and will include training in different apps, smart board training, etc."
Phase Two will go from June 1 2012 to August 2013. Staff will receive training on creating companion sites and in the use of Web 2.0 tools. They will have a chance to visit other sites to see how their peers are integrating technology into the classroom.
"They will get to see what others are doing," Welker pointed out. "We think that is really important."
Around the first of November policies and procedures for laptops will be developed and submitted to the board for approval. The final decision on what devices to purchase will be made and they will be ordered close to Christmas. The junior class will receive the devices for the fourth nine weeks of the 2012-2013 school year as a pilot or "dry run."
Phase Three will begin in August 2013.
"When school begins in August 2013 Eastwood High School and Middle School will be different," Welker said. "It has to look different."
Students in grades 8 -11 will get their laptops and receive training on how to use them. The seniors will get theirs back (obtained originally in spring 2013). Professional development will continue.
The eLearning project comes at a cost. The 2012 impact is already $60,000 for staff laptops. Switches in the middle and high schools are being upgraded at a cost of $25,000. Professional development will be $15,000.
In 2013 the district will spend around $309,000 including $105,000 for staffing (director and eSLs), $75,000 for infrastructure (wireless access ports), $4.500 for connection to fiber, $72,000 for 11th grade devices and the rest for professional development.
2014 will cost $432,000 which includes $290,000 for devices and the rest will go to staff costs and professional development. 2015 will include $70,000 for devices and $152,000 for other costs.
Welker estimates that by replacing only one grade level devices per year there will be a sustainable cost of about $70,000 for devices.
Committee member and teacher Kristie Dubois addressed the audience saying that the program will reduce the time teachers spend copying resources and they will be able to do quizzes online. She said that teachers will no longer have to wait to use the current netbooks the district owns and will have instant access to online resources.
"It will be easy to assign projects that kids can work on at home," Dubois said. "No longer will we hear the excuse that "I don't have a computer at home."
Committee member Lisa Ernsthausen told those present that the outcomes of eLearning will be 21st century skills of communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving. Students will be more responsible for their own learning. "Flipping the classroom" will allow more time for application of knowledge.
"The plan that is in place right now is nearly perfect," she added.
Eastwood Director of Technology Matt Routon said that he favored developing a plan because demand for technology in the classroom has continued to grow. The netbooks the district currently uses are used frequently. He said it was that high demand that made school officials begin researching eLearning.
"I remember the day Matt came into my office and said, "I think we should keep looking at this," Welker said about his technology director. "He did a great job."
In other business the board:
• Approved letters of resignation for retirement for Janet Fries, effective October 29; Patricia Owen, effective October 31; and Jean Long, effective May 31.
• Approved an online license agreement and Webinar with OdysseyWare for $7,000. This will be the content provider for the pilot with 15 students this summer. It will be used for five site licenses at $1,000 each and $2,000 for professional development.
• Approved the bids for and awarded a bid to Executone Communications Systems, L.L.C. for a new phone system at a cost of $42,801.