"We must prepare our students for their future, not our past." (quote by David Thornburg)
Our district is in the midst of a “Technology Renaissance”, if you will. We were on the cutting edge of educational technology in the late 1990’s and then seemed to have slowly lost momentum, mostly due to funding restraints. In June 2006 the Oak Park community voted a resounding “YES” on a 17.5 million dollar Prop 39 Bond Measure C6 for safety, equipment and technology, affirming the commitment and desire for OPUSD to provide 21st century technology for our 21st century learners. The passing of the C6 bond speaks volumes about our community’s commitment to reestablishing excellence in educational technology, as well as acknowledging the need for our district to renew and revamp its infrastructure and hardware.
The bond altered the finance and budget aspect of the Education Technology Plan and the resulting funds afforded many new avenues leading to our new technology vision, based on the guiding question, “How is this going to change the way we teach, the way we learn and the way we communicate in Oak Park?”
The 2006-07 school year marked beginning of a new era in OPUSD technology. The district Technology Committee was reorganized, representing a cross-section of district stakeholders, and was charged with the duty of honing a vision of the 21st Century Classroom. A group of committee members visited several schools in Northern California with “exemplary” educational technology models. Best practices were gleaned from each site, relevant educational research was reviewed and a model for the OPUSD 21st Century Classroom was created by the district Technology Committee with a clear vision of our goals, all deeply rooted in educational outcomes for the Oak Park learning community.
In February of 2007, the OPUSD Tech Committee invited all teachers in the district to apply for a 21st Century Classroom. The committee had hoped that they would receive 10 applications. Instead, 46 teachers applied to be part of the pilot. The committee decided to fan the spark of interest into a flame and accepted all 46 applicants. Each 21st Century Classroom included:
• 77” Smartboard interactive whiteboard with integrated DLP projector
• teacher MacBook laptop
• document camera
• class set of Smart Response student response devices.
Each item was distributed in a sequence that included equipment distribution and the companion professional development/training piece for that item, followed by a period to become familiar with the piece of equipment and assimilate it into the classroom instructional delivery model.
The 21st Century Classroom pilot was extremely successful, as evidenced by the fact that 64 additional teachers applied for the program in the second round (2008-09), 23 teachers in the third round (2009-10) and another 16 in the fourth round (2010-11) . Currently 80% of our classrooms are 21st Century Classrooms. The application process is opened to all teachers in January of each year. The Tech Committee reviews applications. Notification of acceptance goes out by March 31st, and the equipment installation and teacher training begins in June. Participation is 100% voluntary. It is our goal to eventually have 100% of our teachers in 21st Century Classrooms.
In February 2007 the position of Technology Director was vacated. The position was redefined and posted as the Director of Educational Technology, thus allowing for only certificated applicants to apply for what had been a classified position. This was a significant change of focus for the district in regard to technology, technology leadership and technology vision, indicating an underlying current pushing for immediate action to be taken to make the new technology vision a reality. District leadership had affirmed their belief that technology had to be driven by educational goals. The new Director of Educational Technology began on July 1, 2007 understanding that we needed to provide a network that would support the district vision of a 21st Century Classroom learning environment.
Under the leadership of the Director of Educational Technology, aggressive project plans were set in place to address the failing district infrastructure. In just 2 years, the entire district infrastructure architecture was redesigned and deployed:
• Migrated from the PC platform to the Mac platform.
o Replaced workstations district-wide with Macs.
o Repurposed PCs that met minimum requirements as additional student workstations in libraries and classrooms.
• Revamped AD (Active Directory) structure to morph with the new OD (Open Directory) structure utilizing the “golden triangle”
• All district sites recabled with Cat6e cable (runs under 80m can sustain 10GB)
• Replaced all LAN switching equipment with new Cisco GB gear (including POE switches to allow potential for future VOIP implementation)
• Implemented a GB WAN network backbone
• Implemented district- wide wireless access.
• Replaced servers district-wide, centralizing operations at the district office.
• Implemented multi-tier data backup solution
• Restructured Tech Department
o Centralized tech staff at district Tech Department office
o Added an outsourced Network Administrator position
o Redesigned and expanded district Tech Department office that now houses our centralized data center
o Implemented an online HelpDesk ticket system
• Migrated to a new district-wide CMS model website with Web2.0 features
• Defined and documented best practices for Tech Department functions
The most significant change since September 2007 is the change in District culture in regard to technology. It is evident that the OPUSD stakeholders now believe that the technology is here to serve them in support of our mission to educate tomorrow’s leaders.
We are at the tipping point of what may prove to be the largest paradigm change in the history of education. Technology has been the catalyst to sweeping societal changes. We are connected and we are global. Information is available instantly, usually from a device that we can carry in our pocket. Moore’s Law has proven valid, as we witness the exponential acceleration of technology.
Our students, the digital natives, have never known a world without cell phones, computers or Internet access. The digital social network is part of their “norm”. At home they are connected…global…authors…publishers…problem-solvers… collaborators… and multitaskers. They have a voice and a global audience. There have been many articles and even entire books dedicated to the discussion of whether or not their brains are “wired differently”. In many cases, this continual immersion in digital, social experiences has altered the way they react to the traditional classroom setting. In OPUSD, we believe that we need to adapt the learning landscape to address our digital natives and the way they learn. Our teachers’ high degree of attention to providing our students with an engaging, differentiated and meaningful curriculum is at the core of our vision. Our 21st Century Classroom initiative is reshaping point of instruction and engaging our students in classroom instruction and activities that place students in the role of being connected… global… authors… publishers… problem-solvers… collaborators… and multitaskers.
Director of Educational Technology