Arlington school officials recently distributed nearly $1 million in technology project grants to campuses through the district’s Transformation Through Innovation program.
The 28 grants totaled $987,949 and included 30 schools: 19 elementaries, eight junior highs and three high schools.
The grant money is mostly from the 2014 bond package, augmented with some of the district’s annual operating budget funds.
It is the second year for the technology grant program, which distributed $374,650 in 2013.
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Farrell Elementary won two grants, while West Elementary got one grant and teamed with Ashworth and with Wood elementaries for two other joint grants. Boles, Gunn and Ousley junior highs partnered on a single grant.
Schools that partnered up tended to be more successful in securing awards.
“We really focused on the collaboration key because that’s one of the 21st-century skills that our students need,” said Deann Thompson, instructional technology specialist, adding that some projects will team students on different campuses and even globally.
Fitzgerald Elementary got the largest grant, $119,229, while Key Elementary had the smallest, $4,144.
A team of seven teachers applied for the far-reaching Fitzgerald grant, aimed at increasing students’ daily access to technology throughout the school and using it in all classes and subject areas, not just technology labs.
“We were looking for specific components,” said Barry Fox, the district’s director of instructional technology. “It went along with the name of the grant: ‘transformation through innovation.’ We were looking for projects that change the way teachers teach and students learn.”
Teachers seeking grants were invited to meetings and grant workshops. A grant website with links to last year’s winners helped them see what the district was looking for.
The basic requirements include making sure students have access and are meeting the technology standards in the curriculum. But so much more can be done, Fox said.
“Often [teachers are] held back because we don’t have the money to do the outside-the-box projects,” said Fox. “These grants have allowed these teachers to do some really positive projects.”
There was no dollar amount restriction to the grant proposals.
“We told them to think big,” Fox said. “This grant is for those really above-and-beyond projects that teachers have really wanted to do. Some needed a little bit of equipment; others needed a lot.”
“The grade level was not even a factor,” said Thompson. “We even had a pre-K teacher who won a grant.”
Some 2014 grants built upon projects that began with grants from last year.
“One of those grants was awarded for fourth-graders,” said Fox. “When they moved into fifth grade, teachers knew they needed to continue with that, so they wrote their grant accordingly.”
At Shackelford Junior High, a librarian was awarded materials for a maker space last year. This year she worked with a teacher to build that program and bring it into the classroom.
Even tech-obsessed tweens and teens still have plenty to learn about technology, according to Fox.
“I think our kids aren’t so much digital natives, they’re more ‘media natives,’” Fox said, adding that their experiences are integrated with music, videos and graphics.
“They aren’t necessarily equipped to work with traditional technology applications like Word or spreadsheets,” said Fox. “There’s lots of video in the classroom, but we’re hoping to build on the digital-learning pieces they don’t have when they come to us.”
The fruits of the grant program will be on display to the public on May 18, when a district Transformation Through Innovation grant showcase will be held at the Arlington ISD Mac Bernd Professional Development Center.
Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657
By the numbers
▪ Students affected by Transformation Through Innovation: 8,013 (2013), 12,682 (2014)
▪ Proposals submitted: 68 (2013), 43 (2014)
▪ Proposals awarded: 12 (2013), 28 (2014)
▪ Campuses involved: 13 (2013), 30 (2014)
▪ Amount awarded: $374,650 (2013), $987,949 (2014)
Source: Arlington school district