Looking ahead to ’13-’14…

binoculars

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.

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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.

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