Tag Archives: technology

Looking ahead to ’13-’14…


What lies ahead for technology in West Des Moines Schools during the ’13 – ’14 school year?

Here’s a quick glimpse at some of the big picture things we’re thinking about for this next school year.

#1:   1:1 or not 1:1?
Last spring, we organized a 1:1 study team (see our 1:1 website for details).  At the end of the study, we presented to the school board, but no decisions were requested or approved.  Knowing that potential budget reductions were coming this fall, it was known that it wouldn’t be requested at that time.  However, the question now is… are we done with the topic?  When I’ve been asked, I’ve responded with “It will happen, it’s a matter of when, not if”   Currently, over 50% of the districts in Iowa supply some type of mobile device for at least some of their grade levels. From my view, we still need to make sure we are clear on why we would proceed with 1:1 and then begin to build capacity to prepare for it.

#2: K-6 iPads
A few years ago, the district invested in approximately 300 iPads and since that time, schools and parent groups (which was almost exclusively elementary schools) purchased an additional 800 iPads on their own.  It’s good that K-6 has identified that iPads are meaningful and worthwhile – but now we need to level the playing field between classrooms and schools.  We’ll also need to tighten up our inventory management and licensing of apps, as well consider what changes need to be made to training related to rolling out more iPads.

#3: Infinite Campus Expectations
Based on the feedback from both our annual tech survey with parents and the communications audit, It’s time to review our expectations related to Infinite Campus.  This will probably include topics such as updating grade books, calendars, email announcements, and communications between home and school.   We’ll need to think through how we’ll bring a team together from the various audiences, so we’ll need to work out those details before proceeding… but it certainly appears that this topic needs to be on our radar for this school year.

#4: On-line Courses
Attending college used to mean all face to face classes – but that simply isn’t the case anymore.  We’re seeing that college students are taking more and more on-line courses even while living on campus.  We need to start offering more avenues for students to become exposed to the structure and expectations of an on-line course. 

For example, in the state of Michigan, all students are required to attend at least one on-line course prior to high school graduation.  I’m not suggesting that we add this same requirement – but instead, we need to start building capacity for offering variations of online courses.  This might include a blended course which would utilize both face to face time and on-line interactions.  For example, envision a course that meets every other day opposite physical education – but yet offered full credit because half of the course was online and the other half was face to face.

#5:  Teacher Laptops Refresh
In Jan 2014, the initial teacher laptops deployed will be at the point where they need to be refreshed (Of course, I’ve heard from some of you who feel they should have already been replaced).  We’ve actually started the evaluation process for new models and so far we’re hearing that folks want the obvious:  smaller, lighter, yet faster.

One item still to be worked out… will the roll out/requirements be just like they were before, where the teacher was required to attend training in order to receive the device?  My initial thoughts are… yes, we need to continue some type of training to receive the device.  However, I can envision that we might have two possible paths… a full 15 hour route for those who need professional development credit and a shorter route for those who do not need the credit.


This list isn’t comprehensive as we’ll certainly be working on other tasks including finishing up online registration, potentially updating online payment systems, replacing nutrition software, testing of Chromebooks, and more.  But it’s a start of the big picture issues that will likely come up during the ’13 – ’14 school year.

What our parents think of technology (2013 edition)

For the past four years, we have conducted a short on-line survey with our parents regarding technology in our district.  Here’s a quick summary of the results…

Download the full copy of the survey results including all comments. (pdf file)

parent survey infographic 2013

Sample comments regarding things that are going well…

Infinite Campus, daily announcements, and the new district website!

Infinite Campus is a great tool. Being notified of outstanding assignments is very
beneficial to keeping us on track at home.

I love the daily messenging system so that we, as parents, hear the same
announcements the kids.

Love the Campus Portal App!

Sample comments regarding suggestions for improvement…

I think Infinite Campus is a great tool IF the teachers use it.

The number of iPads in their classrooms differs significantly. My son at FM has 5 iPads in his room and my daughter at HD has only one. That seems a bit discrepant to me.
[Note from Brian: This is correct, there is a different between rooms/schools and this is a goal of our this coming year to start leveling the access to iPads]

That we have infinite campus- but teachers need to update more frequently.
Shouldn’t be a week or 2 before grades are entered. I can’t guide my student
when I don’t have current info.

Infinite campus is a great tool for us as long as it is updated in a timely manner
and the due dates are accurate (the latter is usually more of the problem).

When the anouncements are sent, I’d like to see the main topic in Bold under
categories. Example: HELP NEEDED or CHOIR NEWS – there is so much
information that I would like to scan the page to find the information that is
relevent to us in a word or two.

As a whole, we don’t use technology well. Sometimes we over use it, such as
with general announcements and activities announcements.

Make the announcements readable everyday and not an attachment to open to

I strongly DISLIKE that the emails now are just PDF’s that need to be opened to read. Takes too long to open them on my phone. [Note from Brian: Although many schools still choose to send announcements as PDFs, many are also now sending a link to webpage where the same announcements are posted.]

It would be nice if the email messages could be further refined or consolidated. I
average 4-5 messages per day from the schools (I have three children at three
different schools).

Many teachers don’t consistently update Infinite Campus which makes it
frustrating for the student and parents to know exactly how their kids are
performing in each class.

I would like to see better use of the grade book. Students should be able to use
it as a planner to see what tests and projects are coming up and help them stay

It would be really nice if the district could offer some online courses for students,
especially specialty ones or high level academic ones that could be completed in
the summer.