One size doesn’t fit all with technology in Keller schools

Posted Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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Keller district officials are changing the way they evaluate and use technology to better serve the needs of students and staff.

While a lot of districts are focused on providing one device for every student, Keller educators are looking at a variety of options.

“It’s not just one device but multiple devices based on curriculum,” said Joe Griffin, chief technology officer. “Instruction is driving the procurement of technology.”

Over the last several years, administrators and teachers have piloted a number of programs in schools, including wireless only smartphones at Trinity Meadows Intermediate, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) at Keller High and Google Chromebooks at Timberview Middle School.

What they found was that the best device changed based on the task. While smartphones and tablets were a good way to access information, they often fell short in the development of intricate projects, Griffin said.

For almost all computing, mobility is key. Griffin said that schools don’t have a lot of need for traditional desktop computers, except in computer labs. While a regular laptop can do most jobs, tablets are good for elementary students who benefit from the intuitive interface. Netbooks often don’t have enough computing power.

“We’re trying to find the best solution for students and teachers, realizing that there’s not one best solution for everyone,” Griffin said.

Now that officials are looking at multiple devices, they are seeking help to determine what technology to purchase. At the Feb. 20 board meeting, Keller trustees unanimously approved a six month contract with Gartner, a technology research and advisory company. According to its website, gartner.com, the firm has clients in more than 13,000 organizations in 85 countries.

The school district is paying Gartner $22,442 to help determine what technology items need to be part of a possible November bond package. Funds still remaining from the 2008 bond will cover the consulting fee.

Officials have already begun to prioritize needs.

Two of the district’s four network routing switches are nearing the end of their expected lifespan, Griffin said. The infrastructure for wireless computing also needs to be upgraded.

“The demand for wireless is increasing,” he said.

At Keller High where educators have been piloting Bring Your Own Device for a few years now, teachers and administrators are seeing students log on with multiple devices: a phone and sometimes a tablet and a laptop.

Once infrastructure needs are met, officials are looking at hardware. Out of 15,000 laptop computers in the district, half are five or more years old.

Griffin said that not all the items would be included in the bond; some would be dealt with in the regular budget, through a lease agreement or delayed. Since technology changes so rapidly, those resources in the bond package would be paid off within five years.

Technology touches just about every aspect of the district, from classrooms to the curriculum department, human resources, school finance and more. In the last few months, the district technology committee—a group composed of administrators, teachers, parents and community members—changed their name to the innovative solutions committee.

Griffin said that the goal was to continue looking at emerging technologies while focusing on how to best to support students and staff.

“Innovation doesn’t always take technology,” he said. “Technology will never replace great teachers, great instruction and great collaboration. We want to redefine the role of technology as a support vehicle.”

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