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Posted: 08/06/14

RCS researches classroom
tech upgrades

by CHRIS GRAY
Observer Staff Writer
      Romeo teachers got a taste last week of the new technology that will be in their classrooms by the beginning of 2015.
       Whiteboards, sound systems and projectors will be installed throughout Romeo Community Schools as the district moves forward with its technology initiative this fall.
       The Board of Education spurred on the classroom upgrades with a 7-0 vote on July 21 to spend $358,459 on upgrading or installing whiteboard surfaces in every classroom.
       At the same time, the district's technology department is determining what technology to purchase for audio/visual upgrades.
       The upgrades will be paid for with the $16.4 million technology bond, which was previously used for installing a new wireless network and putting iPads or Chromebooks into the hands of each student.
       Mark Nelson, executive director of technology, said the two projects will combine into one starting in October.
       "We wanted to install the technology on the same day or the next so teachers didn't have a period of time in between," Nelson said. "We would otherwise have to wait three to four weeks to wait for the other crew to come around for the technology."
       The whiteboards are 24 feet long, 16 feet of which is the white board with 4-foot tackboards on either side. These will replace chalkboards and be a surface for projectors.
       The new classroom equipment to concide with the boards include a sound system with microphones, a document camera and an interactive LCD projector that uses two interactive pens.
       For instance, two students can write on the area where the screen is projected with the pens, or can manipulate objects, words and even a digital keyboard with the pens.
       The technology will also include a wall-mounted control system so teachers can easily switch between sources or adjust volume.
       Teachers visited Amanda Moore Elementry July 29 to 31 to try out three rooms decked out with different options for the technology.
       Todd Jenema, a Hevel Elementary teacher, said he is glad that the equipment will be uniform in every school.
       "I think you're utilizing your computer more by putting it up on the screen, and whatever you typed you can put it on the screen, you don't have to print it," he said.
       Amanda Moore teacher Kevin Madill agreed.
       "I think it is nice that the district is trying to keep up with the technological advances that are occurring," he said.
       As an example, they said students could take a picture of something projected with their iPads to study it later.
       Superintendent Nancy Campbell said the decisions on what specific equipment to buy will be based on feedback from the teachers.
       "Our teachers are our practitioners," she said. "We need to hear the pluses and minuses from them for what is best for the students."
       Nelson said once the feedback is analyzed, bids will be sent out on Aug. 4 and due back by Aug. 26. A recommendation will go before the board on Sept. 8.
       Once the technology is in hand, the plan is to work on four classrooms a day during the evening to avoid interrupting the school day. Nelson said Amanda Moore Elementary will be the first school to receive the upgrades.
       He said if all goes well, every classroom will be updated by February.
       Nelson said in the past, Parent-Teacher Organizations have raised money to purchase technology, typically for interactive smartboards. He said any current technology that isn't compatible will be sold, with the proceeds going back to their schools of origin.
       "We're standardizing, so when you walk into a classroom, for the most part, they'll be identical," he said, adding that the height of whiteboards will coincide with the grade level.
       In additon to the whiteboards, the board also voted unanimously on July 21 to spending $127,477 in technology bond funds to provide new computer hardware for Project Lead the Way and drafting and design courses.


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