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Parkland Schools Upgrade Digital Education Plan

By Cristiano Lima, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Oct 22 2013 11:09:20 PM CDT
Updated On: Oct 22 2013 11:09:35 PM CDT

Tuesday the Parkland School Board discussed several initiatives aimed at increasing digital and online learning in the district, including plans to equip every student with a personal learning device within three years’ time.

In a special presentation at the Board’s latest meeting district staff laid out the short term and long term goals for the Open Campus Initiative.

This included three main objectives: a more individualized learning approach with all students, a shift to digital content and digital learning and three-year plan to give each Parkland student a technological learning device, such as a tablet, laptop or Chrome Book.

“Our goal is that our students will have access to the same resources as anyone,” said Assistant to the Superintendent for Operations Mrs. Tracy Smith who initiated the presentation. “For our students it truly is the best of times.”

She estimated that providing a tablet for each student would cost the district over $300,000, but insisted that the total amount would not be necessary.

“We’ve had over 600 students bring in their own devices,” she said. “The economics of the Open Campus Initiative definitely work in our favor.

Tracy Smith also discussed the potential for using pre-existing programs to supplement the schools initiative, naming Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) as one possibility.

“These are free courses from the best universities not only in the country in the world,” she said. Smith cited Harvard, Princeton, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as a few leading learning institutions that currently offer MOOCs.

Currently the Parkland School District has a web portal in place that gives students instant access to various forms of software such as Microsoft Suite and Adobe Creative Suite. The continuing effort to have the district go digital has caused the network’s capacity to jump from 10 terabytes to over 200 terabytes.

“That’s a lot of bytes,” joked Smith. “This is going to be huge for us.”

Coordinator of Education Technology Beth Breiner then spoke of the need to train and maintain the technology in place through the use of the new Trojan Tech Teams initiative. The program trains students, faculty, and staff to work side by side to address common technical and educational issues that arise in a collaborative manner.

“The team has developed a website that is a cornucopia or resources,” said Breiner. “With this year we now have Trojan Tech Teams with every school.”

The Trojan Tech Team cost the district a grand total of $700 to run this past year and would likely play a vital role in implementing the goals of the Open Campus Initiative.

Tracy Smith stressed that these programs would open up a realm of opportunities for students to learn.

“If they can get to the internet they can see the world.”

The next Parkland School Board meeting will be help on November 19th at 7:00 PM.