With the announcement of Hilliard Schools plan for personal electronic devices for students I’ve received some questions and wanted to address some of the more common ones below. You can find additional information about the implementation plan and the Technology Task Force online at www.hilliardschools.org/techconnect/.
Q. What is the district’s annual technology budget? How many computers are in high schools now?
A. The district’s technology budget varies between $1.5 and $1.9 million dollars. This covers a myriad of aspects of keeping the district up and running. The district’s need for network improvements, bandwidth and access points continues to increase; this will be an area that must be monitored as we add personal devices to our learning environment. The Permanent Improvement (PI) dollars fund our technology budget; general fund operating resources are not used in funding technology equipment needs.
We currently have approximately 750 student computers in each high school and our machines are generally on a five year replacement cycle. One of the “shifts” that will take place over the coming years is a migration from desktop machines to personal electronic devices.
Q. Will the district be doing away with all PC’s and/or laptops?
A. No. As we shift from laptop carts and computer labs we will reduce the number of personal computers in our schools. We will, of course, never completely eliminate computers. We have several classes – media arts and engineering classes for example – that can’t be effectively taught just with tablets. We will also maintain building laptop carts for state and local assessments. Our assessment machines will only need basic web browsers; these machines may be able to be utilized outside our normal replacement cycle.
Q. How will you work with parents to ensure students are safe on the Internet?
A. We will be actively engaging parents throughout our implementation process. Our plan is to begin with sixth grade parent meetings next school year. It will take a partnership – we must work together to keep our young people safe. We will provide in-service opportunities for parents on the iPad Mini, parent settings and cloud computing. Just as our students require differentiated instruction, we must provide differentiated engagement for our parents. Our pledge is to work together, share information and partner with parents during this process.
Q. I’ve heard Dr. Marschhausen talk about the district writing its own textbooks. Is this really a possibility?
A. By the start of next school year Hilliard Schools will have written 60 online courses; these are complete online classes that our teachers have created. Hilliard doesn’t need to buy content – we create it. We own it. We can update it with new information throughout the school year. Yes, I do believe we will begin the process of writing our own textbooks. We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on textbooks each year. Our goal is a balance – we will continue to purchase some content. But we will also write some of our own resources and create our own learning modules for students. Teaching and learning resources are changing; this is why professional development is so important. The days of a simple textbook have passed us by – we now need a whole toolbox of learning resources.
Q. What is blended professional development for teachers?
A. Blended professional development is a mixture of face-to-face training and online training for our professional educators. For example, some training on the iPad mini will take place in a conference room with an “expert” sharing information with our staff. Other training may be provided through video chats, pre-recorded segments or via social media. If a teacher needs to set-up email on the iPad mini, maybe we have a video that shows them how to set it up. If a group of teachers want to share information about a collective project they can work on a shared GoogleDoc or potentially use a hash tag to engage on Twitter outside of the school day. We already do some of these things with #ASKHCS and #HCSDchat. We need to move away from the idea that professional learning must take place in conference rooms with participants sitting around tables. We must model how we want our classrooms to look – this includes choice in style, place and pace.