Bond issue helps upgrade technology in Moffat County schools

— To Marlene Knez, the technological journey of Moffat Cou­nty School District throughout the past several years can be likened to Ebenezer Scrooge’s in “A Christmas Carol.”

Scrooge was taken on a trip by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.

In the spirit of the holidays, Knez, the district technology director, took the Moffat County School Board on a similar journey, outlining the history and future hopes of technology as a necessary aspect of student learning.

From a $29.5 million bond issue passed in 2007, $1.6 million was used to upgrade servers, technology infrastructure and provide professional development for staff.

After a full semester, Knez presented to the board with an update about the successes of the program.

An ugly, old ghoul was used to illustrate the ghost of technology past. It represented what was the dilapidated state of the district’s infrastructure.

Knez showed the board pictures of cobwebbed old closets filled with tangled wires and small servers.

All of the cables were bundled together and indiscernible from one another.

“Our routers and switches were outdated,” Knez said. “There were so many wires, if there was a problem ever, we couldn’t tell where it came from.”

Knez said the bandwidth was small enough that it limited widespread Internet use in the schools

However, the ghost of technology future had a smile on his face, and it was easy to see why.

The new mainframe is in a temperature-controlled room, and each wire is labeled by school and classroom.

Servers were consolidated, and bandwidth was increased exponentially.

Knez said most of all, the focus was on projects that would directly impact student learning.

“It’s important to recognize it’s important to prepare students for the digital world,” Knez said.

Part of the project revolved around the new 21st Century Team, a group of teachers with the goal of integrating technology into core curriculum.

Having interactive SMART­boards in most classrooms across the district is not enough, first-grade teacher Cheryl Arnett said. Teachers have to have the training to use them to present core curriculum in an engaging manner.

“These things can’t be added on,” Arnett said. “There’s just not enough time in the day. It has to replace something you’re already doing and accomplish it in a different way.”

For example, when her first-graders work on telling time, Arnett uses the SMARTboard to teach the lesson.

She teaches time the same way she did before the SMARTboard, but she said her students are much more captivated by the interactive technology and their ability to manipulate the screen.

To finish up the presentation, Arnett gave a few quick examples of the future of technology in the classroom.

Her first-graders are part of an experimental program that provides them with individual iPod Touch devices to use in the classroom.

Each of the 23 iPods is outfitted with a myriad of applications to aid with everything from multiplication tables to spelling practice.

During structured lessons, Arnett leads her students through units on geography — using Google Earth — and through short picture books loaded onto the iPods.

She said some of the programs allowed her to teach lessons the same way, but using new technology never ceases to awe her students.

Like when they watch the clock on the SMARTboard, they watch the second-hand tick away.

Every time the second-hand reached 12, the minute hand would click over, and every student in her class would clap and cheer.

“It’s amazing that some of it is so simple, but to a 6-year-old it’s a big deal,” she said. “Everybody wants to try it, and you never have any problems with kids paying attention. Without the updated infrastructure, without the increased bandwidth, we wouldn’t be able to do any of this.”

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