Morgan County R-II (Versailles) School District is hoping to bring innovations in education through technology to the district through a possible research partnership with its internet provider, MOREnet.
The Versailles school is proposing to purchase laptops for the use of every student and implement related interactive student-centered education from 3rd-12th grade.
A one-to-one computer to student ratio is a goal for the district but the number of computers needed coupled with older infrastructure has made the project prohibitively expensive to implement right away, according to Superintendent Dr. Joyce Ryerson.
But Ryerson is hopeful that the stars may be aligning to bring the "One to World" initiative to MCR2 sooner rather than later.
With Co-Mo Electric Cooperative's subsidiary Co-Mo Connect bringing fiber optic cable for high speed internet to Versailles in partnership with MOREnet this summer, the district board of education approved $158,000 to upgrade the district's hardware for network connections. The board pooled together surplus funds from several budget line items to make come up with the money for the project, according to Ryerson.
The district currently has eight wireless antennas feeding internet access to the school, but for an effective one-to-one experience, they needed an antenna for every classroom and two for big areas like the high school commons.
The hardware upgrade will be adding the necessary antennas to feed internet access from Co-Mo Connect's fiber line to the building. The new fiber line will increase the internet speed from 4 Mbps to 100 Mbps, providing a sufficient bandwidth to support internet connections for every student.
The 209-square-mile district has a total enrollment of approximately 1,400 students, including preschool.
In addition to needing more computers, training of staff is also needed to implement a true student-centered learning environment.
With funding from the proposed partnership with MOREnet, the district could begin moving forward with the One to World initiative this fall.
A unit within the University of Missouri - Columbia, MOREnet (Missouri Research and Education Network) provides internet service, technical support, training and more to Missouri's public sector organizations including K-12 schools, colleges and universities, public libraries, health care and state government.
In April, MOREnet announced that it is looking for a "visionary" K-12 school research partner to study student achievement using interactive student-centered learning through technology.
MOREnet has budgeted up to $400,000 over a three year period to help the partner school remove technical barriers and support related changes in teaching and resources.
According to MOREnet's project statement, the goal is to "demonstrate the ability to enable districts to measurably improve student performance in a sustainable environment through the development of practical approaches to transforming and supporting school districts engaged in student-centered learning practices."
Page 2 of 3 - The role of technology in the classroom is still emerging. The goal of the research is to show that it can increase student achievement on both local and state assessments as well as prepare students to use 21st century technology in college and careers.
Each student would receive a Google Chromebook for the year that they would be able to take home with them. This type of laptop was selected due to its $249 cost and ease of use and management.
It has an eight second start-up time and allows compatibility with free Google Apps for Education. Apps on each device would be tailored to the individual student.
Students would turn their computer in at the end of the school year and receive a different one for their grade level at the start of the new school year.
Free Google Docs and Google Forms would also allow students to share create and collaborate on projects, take virtual field trips and turn assignments in electronically, cutting down on the school's use of paper.
The web-based management console would let administrators set up and manage users, apps and policies across all of the school's Chrome devices wherever they may be. The school's internet filtering policy would extend to the Chromebooks. Sites that are now deemed inappropriate or distracting - such as Facebook - would also be blocked on each individual laptop.
Students would have access to most of their files both on and off line.
Teachers would also receive additional training to help them implement the instructional use of technology in the classroom.
The district is considering two options on insurance plans for the devices to cover accidents, loss and thefts.
It is estimated that the insurance would cost about $60-$150 per device. One proposal is for the district to pay for the insurance with parents helping cover a portion of the expense through a tech fee of no more than $20-$40. The other proposal is a plan in which the district would cover 60 percent of the insurance and parents 40 percent.
With the initial start-up paid by MOREnet, Ryerson said the one-to-one ratio should be sustainable with current school funding due to a forecasted reduction in expenses for such items as paper, toner and ink. Cost for textbooks would be reduced with access online, and the use of free Google documents and applications would lower the amount the district spends on licensing software programs.
June 14: Partnership proposals are due to MOREnet from districts.
July 3: Finalists selected. Meetings with finalists scheduled to ensure understanding of the proposal.
Page 3 of 3 - July 19: Project partner district selected. Research project planning begins.
September 2013-May 2014: Research Project year 1 plans finalized and begin implementation. If Versailles is chosen, they propose to purchase and implement Chromebooks in 3rd and 6th grades and one-third of the high school. Each phase will be evaluated at the end of the school year.
September 2014-May 2015: MCR2 proposes to purchase and implement Chromebooks in the 4th and 7th grades and one-third of the high school.
September 2015-May 2016: MCR2 proposes to purchase and implement Chromebooks in the 5th and 8th grades and one-third of the high school.
May 2016 Evaluate project and publish final results.
MCR2 currently has about 800 machines district-wide, multiple servers and educational and administrative software programs. It utilizes a computerized student records database, lunch program, library card catalog and curriculum program in addition to computer labs and mobile laptops for student use and SMART Boards for enhanced classroom instruction.
To a great extent, these programs are hosted online and out-of-house. Licensing fees total well over $100,000. These fees combined with $30,000 — largely covered by funding from Title 6B — to cover server and equipment repairs leaves around $28,000 which must be spread across each building. With two elementary schools, a middle school and a high school, each building now gets about $7,000-$8,000 a year for equipment replacement and new additions.
A case study by the Council Bluffs Community School District in Iowa and Google Chromebooks for Education is showing improvements in achievement. The district had a low graduation rate of approximately 60 percent six years ago.
In 2010 and 2011, the district piloted 1,500 Chromebooks for Education in more than 60 classrooms. Evaluation showed that 95 percent of students said they were more engaged on a daily basis than before the pilot project and 81 percent of students produced higher quality work.
This case study is still underway. In 2012-13, the district provided a Chromebook for every high school student for the year. In 2013, it plans to provide Chromebooks to middle school students. By 2015, there will be nearly 7,000 Chromebooks across the district for students and teachers beginning at the third grade level.
For more on Google's case study in Council Bluffs and other locations, go to www.google.com/intl/en/chrome/education/devices/.