This week at Bowdish Middle School, students are trying out a new wireless Internet connection.
The school is one of four in the Central Valley School District trying out the new technology.
“The connectivity is so fast,” said teacher-librarian Ann Warner. “We can get right to content.”
Last July, the school board budgeted $1.5 million for a technology infrastructure upgrade. It brought the district’s network from a 1 gigabyte to a 10 gigabyte backbone which will be districtwide this fall. The four schools testing the system are also testing it on new school devices. At Bowdish, there are 36 new Google Chrome Books which are on a cart to travel from classroom to classroom. They call the cart a COW, short for Computers on Wheels.
At Greenacres Elementary School, students are trying out iPads. There are new laptops at Progress Elementary and Surface tablets at South Pines Elementary.
Wireless has been activated at the four pilot schools, and installation has been completed in an additional six schools: Chester, McDonald, Opportunity, University elementary schools and Evergreen and Horizon middle schools.
Spokeswoman Melanie Rose said the district had various priorities in choosing pilot schools: Officials wanted to try wireless out in a middle school, one of the open concept schools, a school that has been recently remodeled and a school close to the Learning and Teaching Center.
Before this pilot program, students at Bowdish connected to the Internet with computers connected to the school’s server in the library and computer lab.
“Our world is changing,” Vice Principal Maureen Weisbeck said. “Technology is not new to the kids.”
Rose said the district is looking at policies for student use of personal devices. For instance, middle schoolers are currently allowed to bring their phones to school, but can only take them out at lunch. Rose said district policies could change this fall.
Weisbeck said the pilot program has had a huge impact on the school.
Last year, when students were to take the Measurement of Student Progress test online, they had one day to complete it, since their time in the computer labs was limited. This year, the test has changed – it’s the Smarter Balanced test, which lines up with new Common Core standards. Students are practicing the test on their new Chrome Books. When they take the test, their work is saved so they can come back and work on it the next day.
Kamryn Nead, a seventh-grader, was practicing the test this week, reading an article about sleep and answering questions about it.
“I think it’s easier,” she said of the test. Everything she needed was on the same page which made it easier to find the information she needed.
Along with new policies around the network, the district is also making sure students have the keyboarding skills needed. Language arts and history teacher Jeff Van Horne said next year, students in sixth grade will be required to take keyboarding.
“I like the proactive approach the district is taking,” he said.
He said he and his fellow teachers have been taking training lessons on the new devices.
“I’m learning just like the kids are,” he said.