District looks at technology

Schools' technology underutilized, disconnected, report says

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A recent report critiquing the Steamboat Springs School District's technology infrastructure is spurring a larger district effort to analyze the effectiveness of past technology purchases and rethink future expenditures.

Although the technology-rich district boasts one of the lowest student-to-computer ratios in the state, it lacks a data warehousing system and makes technology purchases disconnected from the curriculum and instructional needs of the district, according to the report written by Go.edu, a Westminster-based company that specializes in technology systems for schools.

The report was funded by the Education Fund Board as part of a continuing district effort to assess its programs and systems. The district also has commissioned a curriculum management audit, communications audit and facilities audit during the past year.

"I don't think anything in there is a surprise," Superintendent Donna Howell said about the report, which was presented to the School Board at its Dec. 6 study session.

The 15-page report is intended to assess the district's technology infrastructure, its reliability and its ability to support the needs of the district, particularly as they relate to instruction.

Howell and School Board members agreed with several of the report's findings, including a need to do a better job aligning district technology with curriculum, upgrading the district's e-mail system and identifying a data warehousing solution that effectively can manage the wealth of student assessment information compiled by the school system.

However, there was disagreement about several other suggestions in the report, such as the need to transition to a single platform and operating system and to enact a moratorium on all hardware and software purchases until the district constructs a detailed technology plan.

District elementary schools and the middle school use Apple computers and servers, and the high school and the district's central office use Microsoft Windows-based PCs. Standardizing to a single platform would be more cost-effective and maximize the range and efficiency of technology resources, according to the report, which recommends the district choose a platform and immediately begin the lengthy and expensive transition process.

But quickly moving to a single platform system may not be the best decision, some district officials said. The district first must consider, among other things, the availability of educational software for each platform before moving in one direction or another.

"I think we need to make decisions based on information," Howell said.

The report also suggested that district computers are underused, an observation that has district officials looking at ways to assess closely how and why computers are being used within the schools.

"I think as we move forward, particularly with technology expenditures, we need to take a closer look at how often computers are used, for what purposes they're used and how the technology connects with curriculum," Howell said.

The Education Fund Board alone has spent nearly $7 million on technology for the district during the past decade. As the Fund Board readies to enter its next budgeting cycle, it becomes even more important for the district and the Fund Board to use information from the technology infrastructure report to guide expenditures, School Board member Michael Loomis said.


-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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