The Office of Information Technology manages all aspects of administrative and instructional technology use in the district, including:
The technology office is responsible for the proper operation of literally thousands of devices and does so with a staff of just four. The office would crumble if not for the support of so many other North Pocono employees, from administrators to board members; from teachers to secretaries; from aides to maintenance staff; from custodians to volunteers. To learn more about the technology program at North Pocono, review the tabs below.
North Pocono has spent considerable funds and effort on its technology program with specific goals in mind:
The changing nature of our world, our economy, and the arena in which our students compete after high school graduation demands a change in the way we educate students and in the content of that education. North Pocono has always offered a high-quality education: the need for change is not an indicator that the educational program at North Pocono has been flawed. Rather, it is an indicator that the traditional target of education has shifted. No longer will a traditional education built on four core subjects taught in isolation using a textbook-lecture-notes-test cycle prepare our students for future success. The obvious question is, then, "What does prepare students for future success in the 21st century?" A video first conceived by Karl Fisch, a technology specialist at Arapahoe High School in Littleton, Colorado (and since modified and developed by many in the educational technology field) called "Did You Know?" provides some perspective on this question.
The traditional education rewarded students for memorizing information, following a script, and working efficiently by themselves. The 21st-century workplace is not designed for those who excel at memorizing information, but those who can locate, analyze, validate, and communicate information. It isn't designed for those who simply follow a script, but those who are creative, innovative, and problem-solving. It isn't designed for those who work in isolation and specialize in one area, but those who can effectively collaborate and communicate with a team while working in a wide variety of disciplines and knowledge domains. Technology plays a critical role in this picture. Technology is the platform, the medium over which information, creativity, innovation, problem-solving, collaboration, and communication happen in the 21st century. Without it, these reform efforts would not be possible.
Contrary to popular opinion, however, owning massive technology resources as a district does not in and of itself improve education. It is essential that these technology resources be both used and used in the proper way in order to reap any appreciable benefit. This requires extensive professional development, curriculum revision, preparation time, and leadership. When a school ensures that all of this is taking place, its students will reap great benefits from technology.
In short, technology is a tool that, when used properly, is of tremendous benefit to education...but it is only the tool. To quote famed educational technology leader Alan November:
"When hanging a picture, you go the hardware store to buy a drill bit to make the hole for the hook. You don't really need the drill, you need a hole, but the hardware store doesn't carry holes, only drill bits. While the drill bit is important, it is two steps removed from what really needs to be done, hanging the picture."
So, too, in education, technology is a tool. We do not teach students and teachers to use technology so that they can become technology experts. Rather, we teach students and teachers to use technology tools so that they may improve the quality of education.
The technology program at North Pocono is guided by a long-range technology plan adopted in 2008 and approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). It covers everything from program goals and timelines to budgets and implementation strategies.
The Board of Education also has several policies that pertain to technology. First and foremost is the Acceptable Use Policy (North Pocono Board of Education Policy #136). This policy governs user conduct with respect to technology. An Acceptable Posting Policy (North Pocono Board of Education Policy #143) has also been adopted to govern what information can and cannot be published under given circumstances. In addition, the district is currently formulating two additional policies:
In an effort to provide students with a state-of-the-art education, the district has committed a great deal of funding to state-of-the-art hardware and networking. In 2005, the district began a five-year replacement cycle for computers, replacing every computer in one building each year, addressing each building in succession. In addition to ensuring that students are not using obsolete equipment, this plan reduces repair/maintenance expenses, standardizes equipment throughout a building, reduces training costs, and equalizes the playing field for all students. The district, which has used mixed computer platforms in the past, has committed to one platform going forward, again reducing expenses. When the first round of the replacement cycle is completed in 2010, all buildings will have the benefit of:
In addition to computers, the district has also invested heavily in interactive whiteboards and projectors, which are available in dozens of classrooms. Digital cameras, digital video cameras, visual presenters, scanners, printers, webcams, and videoconferencing systems are also available for teacher and, where appropriate, student use.
To complement these many devices is an ever-evolving data network, which currently provides backbone speeds of 1Gbps, end-user wired speeds of 100Mbps, and end-user wireless speeds of 54Mbps. The network also provides 100Mbps access to other school districts in Northeastern Pennsylvania, 7Mbps access to the Internet, and 10Mbps access to Internet2. Supported by a very capable datacenter with dozens of servers, including both physical and virtual servers, the network is capable of delivering a wide and growing variety of services to teachers, students, administrators, staff, and the public.
North Pocono offers an ever-expanding array of software for educational use, with an emphasis on value. While necessary funds are expended as available for quality resources, the technology staff always seeks open source, no cost software that is of high quality. Doing so often frees funding to provide additional resources for students and staff. The following software is available on district computers:
The following software is available on select district computers:
It is critical to the success of any school technology program that users receive appropriate, high-quality training. North Pocono understands this and has not only included technology training in the curriculum across grade levels and subject areas for student, but also has made numerous means of technical training available to administrators, teachers, and staff. Numerous teachers throughout the district hold a Masters degree in educational technology, classroom technology, or instructional technology. High School teachers, through the district's Classrooms for the Future grant, have had access to college-level professional development in technology integration from 21st Century Learning Series through the online Embedded Learning Academy; nearly two dozen teachers have completed at least a full year of training in this program. The district has permanently hired a technology coach to assist teachers in the use of technology and has used grant funding to make available at various points three different technology coaches. In addition, the district offers in-house in-service, after-school, and summer training, as well as vendor-supplied training for several educational software products. Self-service training materials, from on-demand training videos to step-by-step usage guides, are also available to staff. Having made an investment in technology to enhance the education of students, North Pocono takes training seriously...as a mandatory step in the development of its technology projects.
Technology is certainly a critical part of a 21st century student's education; however, anyone who believes that it is a curative tool with no inherent dangers is deceived. Like its low-tech counterpart the pencil, the computer, improperly used, can cause serious damage. This is why it is so important that lessons about safe use of a computer accompany instruction in the use/application of the computer. The North Pocono School District is in the process of implementing a curriculum called iSafe, which teaches students how to interact in cyberspace in a safe manner. Covering topics ranging from instant messaging to social networking, iSafe provides age-appropriate instruction supported by free supporting materials. You can learn more about iSafe by visiting their website at http://www.isafe.org.
You can also get a primer on internet safety by reviewing this PowerPoint printout from the Community Internet Safety seminar hosted by the North Pocono School District and Moscow Borough Police (this is a large file...over 2MB).
Technology is obviously expensive. North Pocono's technology department does everything within its power to provide quality technology resources to teachers, students, administrators, and office staff at the lowest possible cost. It employs open source (free) software, low-maintenance and (where cost-effective) heavily warranted equipment, and standardized configurations. These help to keep costs down. In addition, North Pocono always seeks technology grant funding that provides more benefit than cost. Although the available technology grant opportunties are shrinking, North Pocono has received over $800,000 in technology grants over the last three years. The largest of those grants, Classrooms for the Future, has helped spur educational reform efforts in the high school. You can view the results in the video below:
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