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TUSD looks to improve classroom technology

POSTED September 27, 2011 9:55 p.m.

The Turlock Unified School District has an eye toward the future of technology in the classroom.

Recently TUSD Superintendent Sonny Da Marto directed the District Technology Committee to conduct a study and create a plan for how the district can create a 21st century learning environment in every classroom in the district’s 15 schools.

“I’ve been thinking about how we utilize technology to improve instruction. It’s important that we keep up with kids today and it’s my vision to equip teachers with the technology to keep students attention and enhance their education. The point of this is that we are able to improve overall instruction and keep the students’ focus on learning objectives,” said Da Marto.

The District Technology Committee is made up of representatives from each school site and Information Systems Manager Judi Green. Throughout the course of this school year Green will be working with her staff and each school site to study components of the 21st century vision.

Da Marto challenged the committee to answer three important questions, first and foremost: What does a 21st century classroom consist of and how much will it cost to implement?

“We will be asking site teachers and administrators what kinds of technology they need to enhance instruction and curriculum while also engage students who are growing up in a world were technology is all around them,” said Green.

Right now Wakefield Elementary is seen as the most up-to-date TUSD campus with current technology such as interactive whiteboards and student response systems in place. Educational Services Assistant Superintendent Lacrisha Ferria has seen the improvement in learning at Wakefield when technology is used effectively with curriculum. She praised the district’s initiative to move into a more technology based classroom.

“This is exciting and we have seen a perfect marriage between technology enhancing lesson planning and student engagement. Combined with frontloaded and ongoing professional development, student engagement and learning will improve exponentially.”

Part of that process is conducting an inventory of what each classroom already has and what they require. According to Green, every single teacher in the district has a desktop computer and the vast majority currently has LCD projectors and document cameras.

Intertwined with improving technology is sure to be massive funding needs, an equally important part of the study. Part of the challenge for the committee will be to find a dollar amount the district will need to fund the 21st century classroom and further costs such as maintenance of technology and training/ support for teachers to learn how to use the technology with curriculum.

Green noted that whenever large-scale technology projects are implemented a revolving door of upkeep and replacement eventually will take place.

“When we opened Pitman we had 750 new computers, and when the time comes they all start to phase out at one time. We need to determine how we can handle that. I would imagine that the district would set aside money for technology similar to the way we do for new textbooks now,” explained Green.

Da Marto also instructed the committee to look at expanding the district’s new NetBook program. Currently there are 400 NetBooks in use at the new eCademy and certain chemistry classes at the high schools. 

“We will look to expand and I would think the goal would eventually be to have every student in the district have a NetBook, but I think that it will take time for that to happen,” said Green.

In the coming years, Green said the district would most likely expand NetBook usage to specific students and schools before expanding district wide.

Da Marto laid out the plan for future.

“We would use reserves to start the process upon approval by the board and then set aside money each year. This is a long term plan but to kick start it we would have to use one time funds from our reserves — upon approval from the Board of Trustees, of course. Also, we will try to go out there and get as many grants as possible,” he said.

To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail jmccorkell@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.

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