Discover what smart strategies, solutions and practices you can be implementing to prepare your IT infrastructure for the inevitable technological changes coming to your campus.
In fall 2009, Hunterdon Central School District in Flemington, N.J., started a pilot program to transform traditional classrooms. The district gave netbooks to 600 students, who worked with teachers to build a curriculum from digital content in Moodle.
In biology class, they studied the BP oil spill's impact on marine life in the Gulf of Mexico. Through a Facebook group, they connected with hundreds of students from other schools and sent cleanup materials to the Gulf.
In P.E. class, students tracked their fitness and nutrition online; in Spanish class, students practiced speaking the foreign language on Skype with their peers in South America.
“What we want to do is have a classroom that’s very student-centered, very project-based and very rich in emerging technologies," said Rob Mancabelli, the district's director of information systems.
And without a solid foundation of teacher training, the pilot would have been impossible.
In 2004, the district gave every teacher a tablet computer and set up wireless projectors and multimedia speakers in their rooms. Mancabelli worked with CDW-G to figure out what hardware he needed and what tools would fit well with the district's goals. He also networked with staff at other school districts that the company connected him with, and his team committed to responding to teachers' tech calls within 10 minutes.
After five teachers learned how to use online tools, digital content and different programs, they taught five classes on the district's dime in 2005. They teach 30-minute skill sessions about how their tools impact classroom instruction, as well as longer sessions that colleagues sign up for.
Fast forward to 2010. Of 250 teachers in the district, 130 taught about 200 training sessions this past year. More than half of the teachers consider themselves tech experts in a variety of areas and share what they know. In two more years, the district hopes every educator will teach professional development classes.
"When you first start out, you do feel like you’re trying to move a mountain," Mancabelli said. "But now we have a lot of momentum behind the program, and it just seems like, ‘Of course! This is the way it’s supposed to be!’”
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