Which Technologies Should Be Integrated into N.Y. Classrooms?

The Watertown City School District does not know yet how it will spend $3.6 million in funding, but it may be used for software and security.

by Richard Moody, Watertown Daily Times, N.Y. / October 20, 2015 0
SMART Boards are one of the many options available to the New York schools. flickr/Kevin Jarrett

(TNS) -- Students will see new technology, including Smart Boards and hand-held devices, in class as schools decide what to do with millions of dollars in state grants allocated to north country districts.

Albany has begun allocating large sums of money to school districts across the state to incorporate technology into instruction.

The money comes from a $2 billion Smart Schools bond that New York voters approved in 2014.

The Watertown City School District was given one of the biggest allocations in the north country — $3,663,924.

“That’s a large sum of money,” Superintendent Terry N. Fralick said. “Some of the money will go toward upgrading our technological backbone.”

Mr. Fralick said the district does not know yet how it will spend the money, but said it may be used for software and security.

The state approved the district’s technology plan at the beginning of October.

“We have to create an investment plan and then hold a public hearing,” Mr. Fralick said. “There is still a lot that needs to be done.”

Copenhagen Central School submitted its technology plan to the state Sept. 18.

The deadline for districts to submit a plan was Friday.

Now the district is waiting for the state’s OK so the district can eventually tap into the $625,435 allocation.

After the state approves the plan, the district will have to submit another plan detailing how it will invest the money.

“The way we are looking at this money, we would use it to upgrade our infrastructure,” said Darlene M. Rowsam, technology coordinator for Copenhagen Central School. “We’ll use other aid and funds to buy new tools, like iPads and computers, that have a shorter shelf life of about three to five years.”

Copenhagen will use a bulk of the Smart Schools money on telepresence units, which are multipurpose television screens that act like Smart Boards.

The district will also upgrade its wireless broadband and security with the money.

Other districts also are saving the one-time Smart Schools money to invest in longer-lasting projects.

“We will spend the money over several years,” Clifton-Fine Central School District Superintendent Regina C. Yeo said. “We have some first priorities we will spend money on, but we will use the rest to help keep a responsible replacement cycle of technology.”

The state allocated $428,090 for Clifton-Fine’s technology plan, which it submitted in July.

“We’re expecting to hear from the state any day now,” Mrs. Yeo said.

Clifton-Fine will first use the money to put Smart Boards in every classroom.

“Our teachers have become very adept at using technology,” Mrs. Yeo said. “Now all lessons can be done on a Smart Board.”

LaFargeville Central School District will also use its money to put Smart Boards in every classroom.

LaFargeville submitted its technology plan in early October. The district has not been allocated Smart Schools money yet.

“We have a long-range plan,” Superintendent Travis W. Hoover said. “We aren’t going to spend this money on just this or that. We will spend to sustain our infrastructure.”

The district will use the state money to expand its wireless broadband.

Lowville Academy and Central School was allocated $1,429,203.

“We will sustain our infrastructure. We’ll purchase devices that last only three or five years with other state funding,” said Steven F. Bingle, instructional technology specialist for Lowville Academy. “I’ve seen districts spend one-time grants to start programs. Then they have to make cuts to continue a great program down the line.”

A lot of rural areas in the north country, including the area around LaFargeville, have little to no Internet access.

“Internet access in this area is not high speed,” Mr. Hoover said. “We want to expand the students’ time to access the Internet and use technology.”

A lot of districts have programs that give students laptops or iPads to take home.

Districts use these “one-to-one” programs to expand the time students have to interact with technology.

Copenhagen Central started its one-to-one program in the middle school with iPads in 2012. This year the district expanded it to include grades three through 12 with Chromebooks.

“We want to expand students’ access to the Internet both at school and elsewhere,” Mrs. Rowsam said.

She said the district is looking to have Wi-Fi on buses.

“We also give students extra time at the end of the day to do work on computers,” she said.

Hammond Central School District plans to use some of the $325,979 it was allocated to expand its one-to-one program.

“We piloted the program in our sixth-grade classes last year. We are looking to make it a K through 12 program,” Hammond Superintendent Karen L. Carswell said.

The district also will use the money for graphic design software for its business curriculum.

“A quarter of our students go through our business program, so it is something important to expand,” Mrs. Carswell said.

Hammond Central also plans to put Wi-Fi on its buses and use the Smart Schools money for professional development.

Colton-Pierrepont Central School’s technology plan this year also includes training teachers to use technology in the classroom.

“I think we’re better served through professional development,” said Superintendent Joseph A. Kardash. “We will also spend $25,000 for laptops this year.”

Mr. Kardash said the district will sit on its allocated $225,028 in Smart Schools funds.

“We’re already at the point of rotating out our computers with other money. We don’t need to use the funds right now. Plus there is no expiration date on the grant,” Mr. Kardash said. “The Smart Schools money will be very useful when we decide what to do with it.”

The districts are trying to level the playing field for all students to get important technical skills, wealthy or poor.

“This money is meant to level the playing field and give all students the 21st century skills they need to get a good job in the future,” Mrs. Rowsam said.

“Many districts have different income levels or access to Internet. It’s important to provide equal access to all students.”

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