Farmington Public Schools have been behind in adopting new technology for the past few years, constrained by budget woes and playing catch-up in replacing decade-old computers, officials have said.
But in 2012-13, the district moved forward, purchasing 375 thin client computers and adding document cameras to every classroom in the elementary schools.
In 2013-14, the district hopes to move into the future, which Technology Director Ted Lindquist describes as a 1:1 ratio of students to computers, where students have technology integrated into every classroom and every lesson.
Technology encompasses about $400,000 under the equipment budget and would hit on two goals: integration of technology into daily instruction and preparing for the 2014-15 implementation of the SBAC test, which students must take online.
Lindquist’s plan would bring wireless internet access to the five elementary schools, following installation at Irving A Robbins Middle School and Farmington High School in 2012.
The wireless infrastructure, part of $527,000 in the schools' capital budget, enables both goals, Lindquist said.
“It enables us to purchase cost-effective devices rather than $1,000 computers. And it allows us to address the issue of many students taking the test at the same time,” he said. “If you have 150 students and a lab of 25 computers, it’s going to take months to get everyone tested."
In addition, Lindquist said, space is also at a premium in the district and there’s not room to dedicate more classrooms to computer labs.
Instead, they started looking at a low-cost wireless device that would serve for instruction and the SBAC test administration.
They settled on Chromebooks - $250 wireless net books. The small laptops can’t load any software, but rather can only run Google apps and access the internet. Lindquist visited a district in South Carolina where every student entered the classroom in the morning and picked one up for use throughout the day, then returned them at dismissal.
They would promote student inquiry, investigation and engagement, Lindquist said. Students could share their writing with the world and in turn get responses from around the world.
“We can ask students ‘do you have the answers? Can you research the answers?’ If you have technology there in front of you, you can,” Lindquist said. “Where kids are asking their own questions, they want to find the answers and want to spread their own information.”
In addition, he said, the shift to Google docs allows for seamless transition between school and home – even on snow days and over vacations – and prevents work from getting lost.
Lindquist’s vision is the 1:1 initiative the Farmington district – and he said, other surrounding districts – aim toward. But, with limited funds, school officials are taking a multi-year approach to purchasing the equipment. In the 2013-14 budget, the Board of Education has requested enough Chromebooks to supply an entire class at each of the elementary schools, with two sets at Irving Robbins and three at Farmington High School.
“The goal, at the end, is to have enough for all students in one grade to take a test at same time,” Lindquist said.
But officials are nervous about getting students used to the devices before the mandatory online testing in 2014.
“My concern is that we have to get kids to practice next year taking the test online. There’s no mouse and it takes some getting used to,” he said.
In addition to the Chromebooks, the budget request includes a few more thin clients for the high school library, said Superintendent Kathleen Greider.
Lindquist also listed the rest of the request: 10 iPads per elementary school for use with special education students, some smartboards, printers, laptops for staff, enough document cameras to finish outfitting district classrooms, including 47 at IAR and 100 at FHS, 21 art computers and 3 Macs for music practice rooms, both at the high school.