Basic book reports would scintillate with sound bites, electronic pictures and music under Davis School District's $5 million proposal to enhance instruction through technology in all schools.
The plan, which includes hiring 26 technology specialists and bolstering technical support, is unprecedented in Utah school districts."It's a means to the end for education," said Roger Martin, district education technology specialist. "To me, a computer used properly is no different than a chalkboard or textbook used properly. Progression of the student still is in the hands of the teacher."
The district would use $1 million to fund school technology specialists, $3 million for equipment upgrades, $35,000 to implement a central help desk for technical support and $750,000 in one-time funds to pilot integrated learning systems, said district business administrator Bruce Williams. The ongoing money would come from state, district, bond and voted-leeway funds.
The plan, also applauded by the State Office of Education, will be part of the Davis Board of Education's June budget discussions. If approved, it would be phased in beginning July 1. The district has presented the proposal to a group of principals and will meet with all principals next week.
"I think it will be very positive," said Windridge Elementary principal Kathie Bone. "We've gotten ahead of ourselves in gathering software and hardware in the district and we're having difficulties keeping them running and bringing people up to the same level as the technology."
Support demands accompanying media labs and Internet access at all schools outpace the district's technical support staff. Teacher technology skills and resources also vary.
But school technology specialists, a district Webmaster and a central help desk staffed 10 hours a day would meet such demands. Teachers would receive on-site training, which could include mentoring and sample lessons.
"We're pretty skilled in management functions of technology use. It is now time to get into the next level of including it into our instructional plans, not just gleaning information," said Layton High principal Paul Smith. "It's going to give us (the district) a jump start on the envious position we're already in."
The plan also would give 72 schools $15,000 each to start or continue projects. Schools could compete for grants of up $50,000 apiece; enough money is available for about half the schools, Martin said.
District officials hope technology will help students improve their performance and prepare them for a technology-based work force.
"All we're doing is trying to put together a proposal for what I think are necessary tools and resources to use technology to strengthen education," said J. Dale Christensen, administrator of district support services.
Research indicates the district is on the right path.
Educational technology positively affects student attitudes toward learning, particularly when allowed to control their own learning, and their achievement in all major subject areas, according to the 1995-96 Report on the Effectiveness of Technology in Schools. The report was commissioned by the Software Publishers Association and conducted by Interactive Educational Systems Design Inc.
The report also notes that effectiveness is influenced by student populations, software design and the role of teachers, among other factors. District-level involvement, teacher training and networks maximize benefits.
Technology has its drawbacks, however. This year, six district employees, including an elementary school principal, have been removed after filtering systems caught them accessing inappropriate Internet sites.
"It's always an issue," Christensen said. "But we think this problem is going to become less of a problem than a greater problem."