Schools upgrading technology plan
By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
Mid-Del Schools is undergoing a major technology upgrade.
The school district last week unveiled an initiative that includes 10,000 new devices and improved training for teachers and students on technology.
Cordell Ehrich, assistant superintendent, and Scott Haselwood, executive director of technology, presented the plan to the school board at the Feb. 8 meeting.
The plan will help the district follow its motto of “Safe, Challenged and Ready” in a rapidly changing technological climate. Haselwood said that includes teaching students how to safely navigate online spaces and understand potential threats. The use of technology can help challenge and engage students and prepare them for college and careers.
“We don’t know exactly what careers are going to be available for our students when they graduate and it’s critical that every grade level does what it needs to do to help support our students as they try to determine and try to learn and get fundamentals,” Haselwood said.
Haselwood said the devices and technology will compliment and support traditional learning.
“We need to give our students the opportunities to start learning these kinds of things as they grow,” Haselwood said.
The district is buying 5,625 Dell Chromebooks with Google license, 4,290 iPads with keyboard cases and management license, and 529 anywhere charging carts.
The iPads will be used by students in grades preK-3. Each classroom will receive a set of new iPads that will remain in the classroom. Chromebooks will be used by grades 4-12. Students in grades 4-9 will receive new devices, and 10-12 grades will get existing devices. Those in grades 6-12 will be able to take their device home with them.
The district will not be able to provide internet for students at home.
Teachers will have additional paid professional development opportunities in the summer. The district is also looking to add workshops for parents.
“We’re going to provide training, but we’re not going to walk in the first day of school and expect them to have it all figured out,” Ehrich said. “Our students, parents and community are going to have to learn this process.”
Haselwood said the plan will ensure that all students in a grade level are working on the same devices.
“Students will have a device that works and is current and they can use them right away in the classroom,” Haselwood said.
The district currently has about 8,000 devices which is not enough for every student. That includes a variety of iPads, Macbooks and Chromebooks, many of which are several years old. The average age of the Apple products is six years, and more than half of the Chromebooks will no longer be supported by Google within two years, Hasselwood said.
Using the same devices will also make it easier for teachers and staff to provide support.
“One of the issues we’ve seen this year is students might be on a phone, on an iPad, on a MacBook, on a laptop, on a Chromebook on a whatever book and they’re all in second grade,” Haselwood said. “So, when they run into an issue, the teacher has a difficult time troubleshooting those specific ideas because what device is the student on.”
The district is in the process of ordering the Chromebooks and charging carts. Haselwood said they will order the iPads after receiving reimbursement for the federal funds.
The district has been working to expand its technology over the past few years. That included a pilot program for Canvas, a learning management system, in the fall of 2019. They planned to roll it out slowly but had to initiate the program districtwide rapidly last year due to the pandemic.
In fall 2020, the district launched Seesaw for students in grades preK-3. It is a digital portfolio that allows students to create and store work.
The district will purchase the new devices with federal CARES Act funds. The federal relief program included creation of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds, which provides grants to schools. A second round of the ESSER program was approved in January.
Haselwood said the new devices are expected to last about four years. He said the district will need to develop a funding plan, likely a bond issue, to replace the devices in the future.
“This will provide a large majority of the devices that we will need for the next four years,” he said. “We are only able to make this purchase because of the second round of CARES funding.”