A hoped-for partnership to help bring a 1:1 computer to student ratio to Morgan County R-II School District will not be going forward, but community interest in the program has spurred the board of education to consider refocusing their long term strategic plan on technology.
In April, MOREnet announced that it was looking for a "visionary" K-12 school research partner to study student achievement using interactive student-centered learning through technology.
A unit within the University of Missouri, 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.
MOREnet 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 to implement the winning school's proposed program. 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."
The Versailles-based school proposed purchasing Google Chromebooks 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.
With funding from the proposed partnership with MOREnet, the district had proposed moving forward with its One to World initiative this fall.
Earlier in July, however, the school was notified that it was not a finalist, and MOREnet recently announced that Grandview and Fulton would be the partnering school districts.
While the school was disappointed to not receive the grant, Ryerson said there was so much support from the community and businesses for the idea of the program that the board plans to re-work its strategic plan this year. Board members will be re-evaluating where they're spending their resources, what the goals are for technology and where the district is headed.
Ryerson anticipated that they will likely do a community and patron survey to get input on the strategic plan. From there, they will look at what resources are available and how they can relocate those resources to move forward.
"We want to continue to work towards doing something like this. It's where things are headed," Ryerson said.
The school had hoped to be a frontrunner in the grant due to a $158,000 planned upgrade this summer to the district's hardware for network connections. The project is taking the district off old T-1 lines with new fiber optic cable for high speed internet being run by Co-Mo Connect.
Page 2 of 2 - The upgrade will make internet connectivity faster, enhance capacity and improve the connection between buildings. 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 had eight wireless antennas feeding internet access to the school, but for an effective one-to-one experience, an antenna is needed for every classroom and two for big areas like the high school commons.
The hardware upgrade added the necessary antennas to feed internet access from Co-Mo Connect's fiber line to the building. The new fiber line which is currently being installed will increase the internet speed from 4 Mbps to 100 Mbps, providing a sufficient bandwidth to support internet connections for every student.
"So when we find the funds to do the devices [computers], the backbone will all be there," Ryerson said.
The 209-square-mile district has a total enrollment of approximately 1,400 students, including preschool.
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 to avoid large investments in quickly out-of-date technology. But licensing fees still total well over $100,000, according to district officials. 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.
The role of technology in the classroom is still emerging. The goal of MOREnet's research project is to show that technology properly implemented can increase student achievement on both local and state assessments as well as prepare students to use 21st century technology in college and careers.
A case study by the Council Bluffs Community School District in Iowa and Google Chromebooks for Education is showing improvements in achievement with a significant increase in the graduation rate of high school students. The study is still underway. For more on Google's case study in Council Bluffs and other locations, go to www.google.com/intl/en/chrome/education/devices/.