Report calls for changed technology use in schools

Wireless Internet, a mobile laptop cart in every school and centralized decision-making are some of the ways Nanaimo school district can improve its use of technology in schools.

A review conducted by IBM K-12 consultants this spring includes a number of recommendations for the district to improve service, access for students and use technology more efficiently.

"Overall, the way we access technology and utilize technology for instruction is not where we want it to be," said superintendent Mike Munro. "There's no question in many areas of the district, it's insufficient to support the level of instruction we want."

Consultants found that access to technology varied from school to school – some have computers in classrooms, others only in labs – and recommends standardization so all students have equal opportunities.

The report recommends centralizing information technology decision-making, creating an advisory group to provide a unified voice for the direction of technology, and getting a senior administrator involved with the committee – either an assistant superintendent or creating a new administrative position to oversee education technology.

Munro said there's a variety of computer models and software – even different versions of software – throughout the district and getting everyone on the same systems will have mean savings in purchasing equipment, servicing technology and training teachers to use it.

Full implementation of the recommendations would cost as much as $5.8 million over five years.

That would include: server upgrades; district-wide wireless access; a laptop, document camera, data projector and electronic chalkboard for each teacher; two to four desktop computers per classroom; and mobile computer labs (one cart of 16 laptops per elementary school and two carts of 32 laptops per secondary school).

A second option would cost $3.6 million over five years, but would leave out the cameras and electronic chalkboards for teachers.

Munro said if the district is able to implement the plan, even the cheaper version, some of the money spent would be offset by future operational savings.

Trustee Jamie Brennan said the school board asked staff to look at the report and come back with a response and plan.

Given the district's funding restraints, he's not sure how much of the recommendations can be rolled out.

Staff will present their recommendations to trustees in October.

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