BUSD's Technology Future

On Monday (Oct 26) I attended the District's Educational Technology Plan meeting. I want to thank Mrs. Hackney, District Coordinator of Technology, for inviting me to attend. The purpose of the meeting was to develop a new three year plan for technology for the district. I was hoping the plan would provide a blueprint and direction for the board and district as they plan to spend some of the money from the upcoming sale of measure Z bonds.

The meeting was conducted by two representatives from Tech-Ed Services, the organization the district has hired to help design and write the 3yr plan. Early on, I could see their objective was to create a plan that would provide a supporting document necessary to apply and receive grant money for technology expenditures in the district. They seemed less concern about actually providing the district a list of what our schools and kids need to be technologically literate after they graduate from high school.

Mrs. Hackney indicated there was a technology matrix on the district’s website that provides specific information of what the district’s goal is for students by grade level. She indicated it needs an update but said it would provide a good example of the tool the district could use to provide more direction for the board and administration in the future. The link to the current technology plan is http://www.beaumontusd.k12.ca.us/depts/tech/technologyplan.pdf the matrix is appendix A and starts on page 72.

I tried to impress upon the group my opinion that the district needs to provide the instruction and resources in technology to motivate kids, beginning at an early age, to become more involved in the nuts and bolts of technology. I have watched my four year old and seven year old work with the mouse and keyboard while they play games online and I know it is never too early to start introducing technology into our kids' lives. Computers and the Internet are such a large and important part of our culture that we are doing our kids a disservice by not making technology more of an integral part in their early education.

I got the feeling that many of the teachers in attendance also felt that there was so much more we can do to help all our kids become more computer literate. Many families in our district don’t have the access to technology that my family does and the only place for their children to get the access they need, is in school. I wasn’t able to stay for the part of the meeting where the wish list was developed and I feel the teachers are in a better position than I to determine what they need in their classrooms. I hope the district will work with teachers and parents who work in the technology industry to provide the resources to best prepare our students. My fear is that if we don’t provide this board specific direction and instructions about how to get to where we need to be, they won’t have the proper focus on our chlidren’s technology future.

Here are some ideas I have on what the district can do to right now to improve the technology environment in our district.

  1. I have been disappointed for some time about the district’s policy of purchasing technology hardware on the state contract. Our school purchased a Dell laptop last year for $1,500 off the state contract.  I priced the same laptop with similar specs on Dell’s website for around $700. When I brought this to the administration’s attention I was told it was necessary, but not required, to purchase from the state contract to get the support and training they needed. I argue they could go to a local vendor like Best Buy and get the hardware and support at a better price.

  2. Regularly the district is retiring “obsolete” computer equipment. I know the existing plan’s objective is to have computers less than 48 months old in the classroom. I wonder if some of the "old" equipment the district is retiring could still be put to good use. I have a computer at home that is more than 48 months old and when we  purchased a new laptop we decided to convert this machine for internet, word processing and printing purposes only. We paid Staples to back up our programs, clear the hard drive, upgrade the memory and reinstall our backed up files for a cost of less than $150. It now functions perfectly and is the machine our children use. I think if all the machines being retired were overhauled this way and then put back in the classroom; it wouldn’t take too long to have several computers in every classroom for kids to use for researching and writing their school projects.

  3. The district needs to begin using emails and RSS feeds to communicate to parents. The automated phone calls generated by the superintendent and school principals is useful in letting parents know what’s going on but many parents never hear these calls. Sometimes they are answered by children who don't take messages or they aren’t always able to stop what they are doing and listen to the calls. Many parents use email and cell phones to stay connected;  the district should embrace this and provide digital communication to parents who prefer it to the telephone calls.

  4. The technology matrix needs to be updated as soon as possible. We have many teachers and parents in this district that use technology on a regular basis. We need to find these parents and teachers and get them together to work on the matrix so once the money is available for technology, we can hit the ground running. I recommend this meeting be held in the evening with child care support to get the input from parents unable to attend meetings during the day. Many parents who use technology in their daily work I know would like to contribute but are unable to miss work.