02/05/13 — Schools eyeing future for tech

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Schools eyeing future for tech

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 5, 2013 1:46 PM

Technology plays an integral role in schools, even more so as districts move toward administering state testing online, officials told the Board of Education Monday night.

Olivia Pierce, executive director of information/technology services with Wayne County Public Schools, said that by the 2014-15 school year all state testing is expected to be done online, including end of grade tests for grades 3-8 and end of course tests for high school students.

Some CTE, or career and technical education, state exams are already done on the computer, she added.

"I can't think of any area of our school district that's not dependent on technology," Mrs. Pierce said.

She said the school system's technology department works hard to keep pace with the growing need.

For the school year 2011-12, the district supported 11,000-plus desktop computers and laptops and more than 3,400 peripheral devices, which included whiteboards and digital cameras. In addition, the school system received a Department of Defense grant, which allowed the purchase of about 1,800 iPads and related devices.

Three employees divide up the role of providing tech support at all 31 schools and 11 technology assistants are assigned at the elementary and middle schools to provide front line support, she said.

"All schools except Wayne School of Engineering and Wayne Early/Middle College High School have a full-time certified media coordinator, with Edgewood and Wayne Academy having a full-time media assistant," she said. Four of the area's high schools also have technology facilitators.

The district is required to submit an annual report on media and technology to the state's Department of Public Instruction.

But, Mrs. Pierce pointed out, beyond just having access to computers and software, it is imperative that students have access to technology in preparing for the future.

Ensuring the best resources are made available is the district's ultimate goal, Mrs. Pierce said.

"We're not the only district with this challenge," she told the board. "Every school district in North Carolina will have to make sure they have adequate bandwidth and reliable network available for online testing."

Several proposals are already in the offing, she said, including relocating the school system's data center from Bain Center to a better-suited location, the former Wade Edwards Learning Lab at Goldsboro High School.

This spring, the district will also begin using ClassScapes, an online nine-week benchmark assessment.

Board member Rick Pridgen was sympathetic to the pending plight and the potential financial constraints it will place on school budgets. Likening it to homes built with insufficient electrical outlets, he suggested in many cases, schools were not built equipped to handle the growing technology needs.

"Are you preparing some type of package for our approval of what we need and how much money it's going to take or us to adequately beef up our technology?" he asked.

"We are," Mrs. Pierce replied. "The staff and I are working on a five-year plan."

Board member Chris West agreed that the district has many needs in the area of technology, especially with the looming requirement of online testing.

Efforts are currently being made to monitor the Internet situation for the district, Mrs. Pierce said, which will assess such things as bandwidth and what needs to be done to move the district to the next level.