As the walls of the new high school begin to shape the Clarke County Public School system may finally be close to providing students with the technology that has become such an important component of modern education. Although the technology plan released earlier this week was labeled “draft” the School Board is already acting on some recommendations contained in the documents.
According to the “2010 – 2015 Technology Plan” the proposed technology improvements are coming not a moment to soon. The technology plan, authored by Technology Services Director David Baggett with assistance from other CCPS administrators, paints a bleak picture for Clarke students when it comes to information technology.
“The use and application of classroom technology is probably the greatest infrastructure challenge for the division. As a general rule, the division has not provided reliable and appropriate classroom technology. Our reliance on end-of-life equipment has produced a general and pervasive level of frustration among students, teachers and IT staff. None of the hardware in our classrooms is standardized and most of it was not selected based on the needs of our teachers or students. For far too long the division has been forced to do with whatever can be salvaged or found on the cheap, instead of evaluating the hardware and software that is available and selecting the best products available for our students, as based on the needs of the instructional program.”
In the document, Director Baggett levels strong criticism at practices that drain valuable staff time and funds through penny-wise-and-pound-foolish technology decisions.
“The IT department has made very little progress in improving the quality of technology in classrooms. Essentially, the division has been replacing totally unusable computers with end-of-life systems. This is, essentially and honestly, a tremendous waste of staff time.
In addition to outlining equipment and practices needed to improve the school system’s technology instruction The Technology Plan itemizes the the school system’s need to dedicate funding to replace 20% of all of its computers every year. The replacement recommendation includes abandoning the school system’s practice of accepting donations of end-of-life equipment which results in more effort to maintain than simply purchasing new equipment.
Although the report outlines the technical frustrations associated with maintaining the school division’s IT resources; for example hard drives that are typically too small, too little computer memory, hardware components that fail at an alarming rate, excessive time spent trying to coax virus protection software and other standard applications to work on archaic systems never designed to handle the software, the magnitude of the problems raises questions of just whether Clarke students are benefiting at all from the division’s technology platforms.
At Monday’s School Board meeting CCPS took a preliminary step toward replacing the antiquated computers, on average seven years old, throughout the division. (See table below.) However, larger challenges remain to be addressed. The school system’s backbone network still does not properly support the various buildings with bandwidth and file transfer problems common. However, the bigger challenge may be in providing instructors who are knowledgeable with current software and approaches. In many cases, students have personal access to both software and equipment that is years ahead of what is being taught in the classroom.
“Students today are attached to their mobile devices” Director Baggett told the School Board Monday night”. “Donated equipment that can be used to create a MS Word document doesn’t really engage them.”
Baggett said the challenge is finding ways to use technology in a way that students are familiar with.
But regardless of the technology Baggett said that having local support staff, referred to as ITRT positions, is critical in successfully implementing the division’s technology plans.
On Monday night the School Board began consideration on the division’s technology refreshment budget. The following costs and requirements may change as the CCPS Technology Plan moves toward finalization.
|Item||Quantity Req||Est. Cost per Unit||Est. Install Cost||Total ($)|
|Laptop Carts / 24 laptops per cart||30||25000||TBD||$750000|
|Computers Specified by CRA|
|18 regular classrooms||36||800||TBD||28800|
|2 business labs||58||800||TBD||46400|
|4 business classrooms||4||800||TBD||3200|
|3 Biology/Science Labs||3||800||TBD||2400|
|3 Science labs and 1 Science classroom||5||800||TBD||4000|
|2 Art classrooms||4||800||TBD||3200|
|3 computer technology labs||68||1200||TBD||81600|
|2 Faculty Rooms||12||800||TBD||9600|
|A. D. Nurse||3||800||TBD||2400|
|Gym and C110 Office||3||800||TBD||2400|
|Team and Weight Rooms||3||800||TBD||2400|
|Printers (To Be Determined)|
|Exterior Cameras – Pole Mounted||21||2300||TBD||48300|
|Intercom, Paging, Bells, Clocks||TBD||TBD|
|Information Technology Infrastructure||TBD||TBD|