Archive for Thursday, June 16, 2005

Tech plan stresses ‘enhanced learning’

Focus group predicts future technology needs

June 16, 2005

After a lengthy and much-discussed facilities focus group presentation at last week's Board of Education meeting, De Soto USD 232 technology director Ben Crosier clipped through a second presentation detailing the technology portion of the district's expected financial needs.

Representing the facilities focus group, facilities director Denis Johnson on June 6 identified $120 million in needs for the district. The report will be used as a "jumping off" point as the Board plans its next bond issue, which could be presented to voters as early as May 2006.

The total amount included $10 million for technology upgrades to existing facilities, a number pegged by Crosier and a technology focus group comprising district staff, parents and patrons.

An additional $6.9 million would be included in new-building budgets for those facilities expected to be built with money from the future bond issue, the group reported.

Although Board members requested a cursory explanation during the meeting, they planned to discuss technology further during the upcoming months.

Like the facilities focus group, the technology focus group began meeting in the fall to discuss the district's needs.

Crosier reported focus group members participated in three-hour meetings, during which they reviewed the district's strategic plan, developed goals and plans, and developed estimated costs for each plan.

Crosier said 'estimated' was an important word to note.

"This is technology," he said. "The only thing we know for sure is that it will change."

Crosier also pointed out that technology included much more than just computers. Cabling, telephones, servers, printers, software and projectors all fall beneath the technology umbrella.

When budgeting, Crosier said it was important to consider not just implementation and the purchase of new equipment. Recurring funding for things like upgrades, repairs and staffing must be identified to sustain the technology, he said.

The focus group agreed that technology must continue to support curriculum, instruction and assessment, Crosier said.

That view found a supporter in Board President Rick Walker.

"The thing that the technology needs to be there for is to enhance learning," he said in a later interview. "Technology just for the sake of having the latest and greatest just doesn't make sense financially and educationally."

In its report, the focus group highlighted 10 plans. Each addressed a different aspect of technology.

Projects included updating fiber connectivity, implementing wireless Internet access in schools, expanding the data center, installing more projectors in classrooms, replacing aging laptop and desktop computers, replacing obsolete bells and intercom systems and updating needed equipment like cameras, copiers and software.

A Media Production Plan would help create high school newsrooms. The plan would obtain and align a cable access channel with broadcast journalism curriculum, although some outside grants would be necessary to help maintain funds for it.

A Learning Extension Plan would explore the possibility of installing and using video caching and conferencing, as well as on-demand video.

The 10 plans' total estimated price tag came to $16.9 million.

That number includes the $10 million identified by the facilities focus group for upgrades to existing facilities.

Johnson said the other $6.9 million was included in budgets for new facilities instead of as a separate item. Technology will need to be installed from scratch in new buildings, not unlike air conditioning units, desks and other equipment, Johnson said.

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