Steamboat Springs School Board discusses future technology and capital needs

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— Tim Miles kicked off his Monday night presentation about the future technology needs of the Steamboat Springs School District by handing out something he said shows just how quickly the options for educators are changing.

“This one allows you to produce, not just consume,” the district’s technology director said as he passed around Microsoft's new Surface tablet and detachable keyboard to the Steamboat Springs School Board, whose members were issued iPads less than two years ago.

While some on the board viewed the newer tablet with envy, Miles assured the board iPads still are being used and added to local classrooms, and won't be replaced just yet.

The Steamboat Springs School District is asking the Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board for $408,700 next school year to add new technology hardware, including tablet computers, to the district. It also is requesting $225,800 to improve network infrastructure and to increase bandwidth.

Miles said in the short term, the district's most immediate tech needs will be satisfied with the purchase of new document cameras at Steamboat Springs Middle School and the replacement of more than 200 aging computers at the middle and elementary schools.

There also are plans to, as soon as next school year, start rolling out a “bring your own device” system at schools so students can integrate their personal computers and tablets into their classrooms.

Miles’ presentation on the district's short-term tech plans followed a presentation on the district's five-year capital needs. And a technology-related item topped the list of projects.

Pascal Ginesta, the district's director of maintenance and operations, said the No. 1 priority identified by the district's facilities committee was to move the data server room at the middle school into a larger space at the district's administrative building on Seventh Street.

“We started our technology in a closet, and we're kind of still there,” Miles said about the small room that currently houses the district's data servers.

Miles said the move and the creation of the new server room is estimated to cost $200,000 and would allow the district to improve and expand its technology infrastructure at a time when new devices are being introduced at a rapid pace.

In addition to the relocation of the server room, projects slated to start this summer include the installation of new lights in the cafeteria at the middle school at a cost of $4,000; the remodeling of three pod classrooms at Strawberry Park Elementary School at a cost of $60,000; and the renovation of the track, field and bleachers at the middle school at a cost of $25,000.

The track project at the middle school could be boosted by a $76,848 Great Outdoors Colorado grant the district is pursuing.

The district generally spends $300,000 of its capital reserve fund annually on maintenance and improvement projects.

The five-year facilities plan includes 25 projects ranging from the replacement of the track at Steamboat Springs High School to resurfacing the parking lots at some schools.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

Carrie Requist 1 year, 9 months ago

It is a shame that with all the emphasis on technology in education in Steamboat, that we don't actually teach our studentshow to create technology, just how to use it. For the rapid advances in technology that we see like iPads, smartboards and all the apps and websites that our students use, there are technologist who come up with the ideas, write the code and create these cool products. The technology and engineering offerings at the high school and extremely thin, with the primary emphasis on computer repair, not programming, and I have not seen hardly any early programming or electrical engineering curriculum in the elementary or middle school, where it can be so much fun to students. The number one issue for technology businesses today is that they can't find software engineers to hire. I hope with continued investment in technology, SSSD will take a closer look at the STEM curriculum and notice increase the very few offerings in T and E (technology and engineering) to enable Steamboat students to be actual knowledge workers, not just technology consumers.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 9 months ago

I've seen nothing being used on the elementary school computers that is, in any way, affected by them being older models. School's technology system uses them as glorified graphics terminals and they will be sufficient until they change their technology model and run some cpu or graphics intensive applications. Which I am not sure why we'd be expecting elementary students to use since there is nothing close to that in use now.

School district should reserve buying new machines for the high school that hopefully are more intensively using the capabilities of their machines. And then give the older computers from the high school to the middle and elementary schools.

As for teaching technology, an educational charitable foundation designed the Raspberry Pi which is a $40 computer that is 2'x3" with a large amount of open source (so students can see the programs and legally make changes). It is a great tool for many things because it has HDMI video output, with 2 USB ports and so on. There are many existing applications from video playback to robotics to embedded controllers so beginning students could learn how to build something existing they think would be neat. And advanced students could learn how to create an interesting feature of interest to them.

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John Weibel 1 year, 9 months ago

Go to a Montessori Pre-K to12 model (3 year age classrooms - and middle school on a farm type setting where the hormones reduce the ability to focus). An old friends brother was traveling to China to set up several high schools a year based upon this model. Obviously they see the value in it.

With the technology that is out there and being used in the school district, that is where the technology should be focused and not on new computers that run faster - as Scott suggested. The high school science model that our kid is taking here, is amazing - if it were managed better. Let the kids learn at their own pace, give them guidance, make sure they touch upon everything, but if they get interested in something let them dig deep.

The current model helps to compartmentalize all of our lives. Integrate all subjects, have an english teacher, in the room with science so that the kids write a report and have it graded for english.

Compartmentalization is bad - Integration is good. The varied age groups has been shown to reduce prejudices, it allows all the kids to be looked up to, not simply the "cool" kids. It is by far a much better model, in my opinion.

Though people tend to resist change - oh well in life the only constant is change.

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rhys jones 1 year, 9 months ago

I wrote my whole application on a 386. Speed is not the issue; the basics are.

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rhys jones 1 year, 9 months ago

Point is, money being spent on unnecessary equipment upgrades might be better invested in more diverse course offerings. Carrie is right -- software is where it's at -- although opportunities are very limited in this town (everybody uses canned stuff; everybody's brother does websites) so an alternate means is also desirable. Always money in the service industry.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 9 months ago

Rhys,

Which is why I think exposing the students to these systems on a chip (SOC) for use as an embedded solution would be good. They run linux which is a full operating system and so just about anything becomes possible.

A $40 SOC that can be customized with a wifi dongle for a real estate agent to place in a house for sale that sends an emergency message if the temp is too low. Can make a yard watering controller with a soil moisture sensor that also goes online to check the weather and makes decisions on when and how much to water based upon projected temps and humidity.

I think these SOCs are going to become big because they are not far from a disposable computer small enough to sit in your pocket that with the right plugins can become security camera and recorder or an extremely smart controller or whatever. Considering there are local businesses that just do custom sound and video for local houses and bars then seems reasonable to expect there will be businesses doing any of the numerous conveniences and water or energy efficiencies possible with networked smart controllers. And they make for great toys as well.

And SOCs are far more likely to be big than running windows on the desktop which is what the kids are largely seeing now. From what I've seen, these kids are learning more about tech by how they configure their phones to customize what happens after they take a picture and so on than what they are learning in school.

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