Talking technology in school’s is a lot like trying to hit a moving target for Yellow Medicine East teachers and administration striving to make long-term decisions regarding a rapidly changing landscape.
At the YME District, administration has sought to stay ahead of the curve by developing a Technology Integration Committee, Technology Coordinator and elementary and high school Technology Coaches that all work in conjunction to address the day to day troubleshooting and future technology-related decisions.
According to Technology Coordinator Karen Lundgren, the YME Technology Integration Committee will meet this fall and begin developing a five year technology plan for the district. The amount of aging equipment and the potential replacement expense is great enough where the school has even discussed the implementation of a capital levy exclusively for technology, she said.
As the ancillary article suggested, one of the big conundrums out there is the Bring Your Own Device BYOD) versus a ‘school supplied’ model. “And so the question becomes, do we as a district purchase all the technology and provide each student a device, or do we tap into the devices they already have? said Lundgren.
At present, the school utilizes several mobile labs that can be used in classrooms throughout the district. Altogether there are 12 labs with 25 to 30 devices each. Eight of the labs consist of touch-screen interface iPads, while the remaining four are comprised of Google Chromebooks, which are effectively $250 laptops that are only able to access the web browser Google Chrome (which is not necessarily a bad thing given that YME high school uses Google’s Gmail program for web-based communication and the Chromebooks interact seamlessly). In addition, the majority of classrooms now contain interactive Smartboards.
Thus some of the questions facing teachers are which devices does the school commit to? Are some better for media interface (iPads) and others Wordprocessing (Chromebooks)? And how well does each device integrate with computer programs? Furthermore, if students are able to incorporate their own devices, how does staff troubleshoot all these potential different devices.
“I’m not a firm believer that one device fits all,” said Lundgren.
One interesting development on the technology front that appears will provide the school with an optimum balance of utility and expense is the school’s recent collaboration with Chicago located, web-based company, High School Cube.
According to company representative Shannon Currier, of Waconia, High School Cube provides web-based video services that allow high schools to stream events live over the internet and archive them to their own particular high school’s ‘channel.’ The service is provided free of charge by generating revenue via outside advertisers.
“My job is to get the whole state on board, and I believe we can because we’re free and easy,” Currier said.
Page 2 of 2 - According to Athletic Director Tim Knapper, the school has been in talks with the company since before the end of the school year. Already the district has performed a trial run, streaming live both choir and band concerts. Beginning next year, the school plans to delve deeper into its potential uses.
“Live streaming has been around for quite sometime and different schools use it,” he said. “Most had to lease or buy equipment for a few thousand dollars. This one is a little different in that it’s a free service.”
Knapper said that some of the internet speeds in the gym needed to be improved to stave off video buffering, but beyond that the quality of the video, which can be filmed using the High Definitions cameras in iPads, is of high quality. Outdoor events are a bit of their own beast, however, it was said that a higher quality camera may be necessary here.
Knapper said the video could be used for virtually any school-related event, from Friday night football to graduation. In addition, some of the High School Cubes applications, such as the ability to mark highlights (for instance, touchdowns) makes the service all the more interesting, particularly for high school coaches who can view video over the internet rather than having to burn CDs.
As a precaution, all of the availability of the videos can be determined by the district. This way, if there’s an event that the school would rather keep in house, such as a football game that coaches don’t want to share with competitors, can require passcodes that keep unwanted eyes blind.
“Like everything else you’re going to have some coaches, some programs, that take it and run with it and others who are going to not be quite so quick to jump on board,” said the Athletic Director. “It’s new enough where we don’t have a ton of experience. And I think the bottom line is it’s going to be a learning process,” he continued. “I’m not ready to jump in head first but I am interested in testing the waters. And if you’re going to do it and do it right, it’s going to take a little time.”