09-04-13: Aging computers upgraded or replaced to support learning
09-04-13: Aging computers upgraded or replaced to support learning
Posted on 09/04/2013

More than 2,000 aging student computers throughout the district are being upgraded or replaced this summer with more efficient operating systems to better support student learning.

 

In addition, more than 1,000 new computers are being installed to provide more access to technology.Image

Students at every school in the district will benefit from the technology improvements when they return to school in September, said Randy Averill, executive director of technology services.

 

Improvements are being funded with money generated by cost-saving initiatives districtwide over the past year, as well as with technology funds and donations from PTAs and the community, Averill said.

Bulky, decade-old computer monitors are being replaced with flat screen models that take up less space in work areas, are more lightweight, and have about one-fifth the energy consumption of the older models, Averill said.

 

The computers also have more memory, which improves a computer’s speed and performance, and support the Microsoft Windows 7 operating program and software programs used districtwide.

Information Technology Center staff members are also adding memory to hundreds of computers, converting the aging Windows XP operating systems to Windows 7, and making other improvements to existing computers, he said.

 

Students, especially those in rigorous Career and Technical Education classes with specialized software programs, will immediately notice the improvements when they log in to computers this fall, Averill said.

Partnerships with school PTAs and local businesses have been helpful, Averill said, in the overall technology improvement plan.

 

Last month, for example, the Puyallup School Board accepted a $24,000 donation from the Shaw Road Elementary PTA for computers and related equipment. The money will be used to purchase 35 student laptop computers with accompanying software, as well as a 20-unit mobile computer cart.

Additionally, in June the school board accepted a donation of 241 computers valued at approximately $48,000 from the Hexcel Corporation.

The additional computers are especially needed, Averill said, as more schools are participating in online (Internet-based) testing during annual Washington state assessments.

Students statewide in grades three through eight will be required to take the annual math and language arts assessment online beginning in the 2014-15 school year. In preparation, 14 of the district’s 32 schools took at least a portion of the state testing last year online.

ImageTwo carts filled with mobile laptop computers had to be moved between Shaw Road, Stewart, and Wildwood elementary schools during the testing, which created scheduling difficulties, Averill said. The additional computers and carts will eliminate the need to share in the future, which will be especially valuable when all schools do online testing, he said.

 

The technology additions and improvements also bring more equity to schools like Shaw Road Elementary, which had the second highest ratio of students to computers, and Brouillet Elementary, which topped the list of technology needs, Averill said.

New program pairs students with laptop computers

Beginning in September, the district will launch a program in which every student in certain schools or programs will be assigned a laptop (portable) computer and a padded carry pouch designed to transport the computers safely to and from school and between classes.

 

The district will follow students’ academic progress to determine if the increased access to technology correlates to improved student learning, Averill said.

“We really think this can be a game changer in the success of these students, especially for those who don’t have computers outside of school,” Averill said.

All of the estimated 120 Walker High School students will be assigned computers and carry pouches, as well as the more than 60 students enrolled in Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) classes at Ballou Junior High.

 

Interactive projectors are also being installed this summer at Walker High School. The projectors transform a classroom whiteboard, traditionally used with dry erase markers, into an interactive display, much like SMART Boards installed in other schools throughout the district.

The new technology will allow students and teachers to project images from a computer onto the whiteboard and then use a stylus on the whiteboard to click and drag images to enhance instruction.

Every classroom and the school library will receive one of the new projectors, as well as an augmented sound system.

 

In addition to ensuring that all students can hear the teacher clearly, the improved sound system will allow teachers to record lessons, including content on their computers and projectors, in a digital video format.

The videos can be uploaded to the Internet and accessed by students who are absent or want to review class lectures and material.

Additionally, two carts containing 30 computers each will be placed at Pope Elementary School — one to be used exclusively by a QUEST class that serves third and fourth graders, and another to be used by a QUEST class that serves grades five and six. The QUEST program serves elementary students identified as highly capable.

 

“This is an exciting summer for technology improvements in the Puyallup School District,” Averill said. “Our computers will be more reliable, and there will be more equity across the district in the number of students who have access to technology to assist with their learning.”

Click to view Superintendent Yeomans' article titled, "New school year to include technology upgrades district-wide" in the September 4, 2013 edition of the Puyallup Herald.