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Pilot projects provide insight to further technology integration

To say technology at Pequot Lakes Schools is transforming would be an understatement.

As we develop a road map for the future of technology implementation in our schools, we depend on pilot projects to provide insight to the wide range of possibilities up for consideration in the future. We are currently running three pilot projects in our district and will be starting the exploration of Google’s Chromebooks this month.

With tremendous support from the PTA, we have increased the use of apps and iPads at Eagle View Elementary School. While not a pilot program per se, in addition to the shared cart of iPads from last year, there is now an iPad in every classroom. Teachers are investigating and sharing apps with each other during team technology meetings. They are finding many ways to help students learn with the iPad and ways to streamline daily tasks. This investigation will provide information about the latest apps and determine which should be used school wide.

A similar approach was taken at the middle level and high school buildings. Ten iPads were distributed to teachers in these buildings with the same assigned task — determine ways the iPad can be used by students in upper level classrooms.

Another area we are exploring is the use of interactive whiteboards in classrooms. We have had three Interwrite boards and many mobile devices at the high school and middle level. These boards and devices provide an interactive screen. Teachers can control the computer and presentations from anywhere in the room and interact with the media displayed.

With the recent addition of LCD projectors in the elementary building, these devices can now be considered for implementation at Eagle View. A few Eagle View teachers are experimenting with MimioTeach interactive system. This pilot project is only a few weeks old and already these teachers rave about how these tools change teaching and are noticing an increase in student engagement.

We have teachers blending their classrooms. “Blending” is incorporating a digital platform with a face-to-face classroom. This project is focused on two free sites that allow teachers to connect with students through an online platform. Assignments, online discussions, communication and quizzes can all be distributed, managed and graded online.

This project will help us decide which is the better platform and whether or not we should commit to one for our school district.

Lastly, the Chromebook. This device is a laptop-style computer that only runs the Google Chrome Internet browser. We are a Google Apps for Education school district. This system provides free teacher and student email accounts, calendars and storage. Chromebooks function seamlessly with Google Apps for Education.

Through this pilot, teachers will explore the possibilities and limitations of the Chromebook with our digital curriculum, our online content and student use capabilities.

Pilot projects help us make better decisions for the future technology investment. Through these projects we are discovering new ways to teach, new ways to learn, and we are developing a vision of what technology in Pequot Lakes Schools will look like.

We feel that these projects allow us to take the steps to not only move forward when it comes to technology, but move forward in the best direction for our students, teachers and the school as a whole.

(Brian Kazmierczak is technology integration coordinator for Pequot Lakes Schools.)