We’ve Come A Long Way with Technology by Dawn Brinson, NHCS Chief Technology Officer

As we go from school to school, we are inspired by all of the innovative ways that students and teachers are seamlessly incorporating technology into their day. No longer is technology use optional – it is essential and will only become more so. In the past, aversion to technology use was not uncommon. Now, we hear more about how teachers want to use it but are limited by lack of equipment, infrastructure, and time to put creative ideas into practice. For the past three summers, our teachers have showcased their innovative ideas at our Summer Technology Institute. We have come a long way.

Over the past three school years, the amount of technology in schools has grown exponentially. Mobile laptop labs, iPads, interactive whiteboards, handheld voting devices, document cameras, and other devices used for MClass assessments…the list of equipment goes on. Behind the scenes, there have been other district-wide undertakings such as server upgrades, Novell to Active Directory conversions, Sagebrush to the Destiny library system, and the shift to Google Apps for everything from storage and email, to teacher webpages. Adhering to the district’s strategic plan has meant the expansion of wireless networks to ensure all schools have wireless access. It has prompted the mounting of interactive whiteboards and projectors in classrooms across the district. The addition of mobile carts in anticipation of online assessments and keeping up with the growth in school populations is also part of our district plan. Bottom line, the equipment increase has outpaced the personnel who support the technology both at the district level and in the schools.

Currently, the Technology Department supports:

● 17,769 computers and iPads
● 98 physical servers
● 96 virtual servers
● 855 wireless access points
● 42 telephone systems
● 41 intercom systems
● Computers per client service technician = 2,733:1
● Over 14,000 pieces of audio visual equipment
● Over 2,100 printers
● Over 1,000 whiteboards and slates

Between 2008 and 2012, there was a 26.6% increase in computers and tablet devices. Be mindful that those numbers just include computers and tablet devices. The numbers do not include interactive whiteboards, projectors, document cameras, printers, and televisions – items commonly found in classrooms across the district. It also does not include the infrastructure necessary to make things work such as servers, intercom and phone systems, and wiring. Halfway into the current 2012-2013 school year, over 2,000 new devices have been purchased – and we still have four and a half months left.

Also, while the volume of technology is increasing, between 2008 and 2012, the Technology Department experienced a 3.57% decrease in personnel. During this same time, school site Technology Assistants (TA) and Computer Resource Teachers (CRTs) have been given other duties that increasingly limit their time for technology troubleshooting and support. Due to the enormous growth of technology in the district, we are presently looking at a 1:433 ratio of TAs/CRTs to computers and iPads alone. That is an average. At a typical high school, the CRT could be responsible for over 1,000 devices in addition to supporting a large faculty and staff. It’s not just about the devices – acquiring and maintaining the equipment is only one part of the picture.

What matters most is how the devices are used. Technology cannot magically transform a classroom, but it can help differentiate, assess and engage students. It helps keep parents and students informed. It has the potential to create global learning communities. It is transforming our schools and libraries into 24/7 places of learning. Instructional support for the ever increasing equipment and programs is arduous and the need is constant.

At this moment, teachers are making the transition to Google docs and to a new platform for their web pages. Our media specialists have all been trained, and are still learning, a new software inventory and circulation system. Science teachers have been trained on Discovery Techbook. The move to a state initiative called “Home Base” is coming soon and students will be assessed using the Smarter Balanced Assessments. Governor Pat McCrory recently signed a bill that created a vocational pathway for a high school diploma, so there will be a greater need for support for the Career and Technical Education Department’s newly-revised curriculum. The list of devices and applications our district supports grows daily.

There is no doubt that supporting creativity and innovation will pay off. Students and teachers today have a multitude of educational and instructional options they didn’t have a few years ago. It is imperative that we systematically implement tools and resources to assist teachers in creating a learning environment that ensures every student has opportunities to discover, discern, and apply the appropriate tools in order to make them career and college ready. We have come a long way. However, without adequate personnel to support the influx of technology, are we limiting how far can we go?

Mrs. Brinson expresses her thanks and appreciation to the Technology Department staff and the Technology Instructional Specialists for their contributions to this article.

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