Friday, January 2, 2009

Elementary Classrooms of the future

In early 2000 the Unionville-Sebewaing area schools passed a bond issue to build a brand new 69,000sq foot building. In this bond issue was $250,000 earmarked for technology. Also the district was in need of a phone system upgrade as the High School and Middle School ran off of an old Key system. The principal at the time was Rod Rock, Mr. Rock and I had many spirited conversations on intelligence and how we assess student learning and mastery and intelligence. We talked about how we could make classrooms of the future then pass this vision on to the staff and get them to buy into these pedagogical changes. First was obvious to build a computer lab and then decided how many computer we would place in each room for classroom use to do Renaissance Accelerated Reader testing and other classroom activates. In the beginning of the budget and decision process we were looking at 32” TV for each room. After some long conversations sole searching we decide to eliminate all transparence over heads and get rid of on the wall maps and globes to exchange them for a Projection Unit and a document camera. We were able to design the rooms so the computer, VCR/DVD and document camera were all hook to the projection unit. This was a significant mind set change and not an easy sell to the teaching staff but Rod was up to the challenge. Also these classrooms were fitted with Phonic Ear room sound systems that also connected to the VCR/DVD and also came with an Infra Red teacher lapel microphone. For a phone system we chose the CISCO IP phone system this allowed us to have one port to the classrooms that ran both a phone and a computer as there is a switch built into the 7912 and 7960 phones that we installed in the buildings. With a project like this and using common equipment district wide it has helped us keep our Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) down. We have standardized on Dell for computers and Cisco for are switches. One other thing that we did to keep the cost of the project down was to do all the engineering of the technology and biding of the equipment internal instead of paying the architect 15% to 20% of the $400,000 for Networking, Computers, and the phone system. With this bond issues we were also able to connect both buildings together with Single mode fiber optics cable to connect the 1500 feet distance between the buildings in are school district. These truly are classrooms of the future and are very functional and user friendly. The key I think to make this all work was the strength in Rods leadership. As some of my writing on the good to great I have talked about Level Five Leadership. Well Mr. Rock is a prime example of Good to Great philosophy and Level Five Leadership. If you always keep in mind what is best for the students then we will always migrate to the right answer to make are decision and what best is for all the children.

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I am the Director of Technology at a K-12 School system.