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Question of the Month: Future Tech

In the classroom, technologies come and go and sometimes don’t even leave an impression, while others change the way we teach and learn. What is the most pressing issue in school technology and how are you tackling it at your district or school?

 

Deborah bakerDeborah Baker

Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction

Brighton Central Schools

Rochester, NY

 

We’re at the tipping point. As a matter of fact, some may say we’ve already tipped.

That is, we’re at the point where, many (most?) educators have found it essential to incorporate some form of digital resource into their (daily) instruction. That’s what we’ve been hoping for, correct? The problem in my district however, is that we’re not ready.

Teachers are asking that, instead of their classes being scheduled in their regular classrooms, they want them to be scheduled into the computer labs. This is causing a strain on our resources because we don’t have enough computer labs to meet the demand. While some may think this is a good problem, it’s one we weren’t ready for. Old buildings and fiscal restraints don’t allow for the development of the infrastructure at the pace of the demands. Desktop units are far cheaper than laptops and we’ve made a conscious decision to invest in this type of technology instead of the more portable devices.

Currently, we’re trying to be judicious with the way we schedule our labs. Teachers are still being asked to take turns and plan their lessons accordingly; clearly not our desired state, but one which we must live with, at least for the time being. We’re also investigating additional possible solutions to the growing problem. It doesn’t seem practical to think that anytime in the near future we’ll be able to provide all of the resources that our teachers and students are demanding so we’re looking into the issues surrounding a BYOD (bring your own device) approach.

There are a few districts in our area dabbling with this practice, and we’re trying to learn from them. What applications will our teachers need to work primarily from the “Cloud”? How open can we let our network be and still maintain the security we require? Do we need to standardize on the type of device we’re asking students to bring to school and if not, what new issues will unfold when all of the students bring something different?

It truly is an amazing time to be in education. Demands on the classroom teachers are coming from all fronts; new state regulations on teacher evaluation, student demands for engaging learning environments, parent demands for real time communication of their child’s progress, and the need to meet rigorous state standards and assessments.

At best, we’re trying to think of these demands as opportunities. Work smarter, not harder the old adage goes. The only way to do this is by capitalizing on all the capacity afforded us by digital environments.

 

John OrbaughJohn Orbaugh

Director of Technology Services

Tyler Independent School District

Tyler, TX

 

 

 

Bring your own device is the next frontier for our district.  With the funding cuts we have experienced it is no longer feasible to provide all the computing power that our students need. Not only is this no longer feasible, it was at least for us, not a sustainable computing model either. 

Our district is implementing a virtual desktop solution for both our student and staff computing needs. This approach to the problem of an aging fleet of computers allows us to extend the life of our 5 – 10 year old PCs by using them as a thin client device.

Later, when these units finally die, we will replace them with a zero client device that cost less than half of a standard desktop PC and will have a useful life of 10 years. Additionally, we will use the virtual desktop as the delivery vehicle to the student’s computing device, be it a iPhone, iPad, netbook, laptop, Droid tablet or what have you. The virtual desktops delivered via our wireless network will keep the student’s devices separated from the district’s network to prevent virus and malware attacks. The virtual desktops can also be delivered across the Internet to the student’s device at home or any WiFi hotspot. 

Preparing our network infrastructure for the onslaught of student owned technology entering our buildings and training our teachers to deal with the devices in their classroom are the immediate concern now that our virtual desktops are in place. 

 

 

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