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Technology vastly improving at SK Schools

November 3, 2011

SOUTH KINGSTOWN – The Technology Director for South Kingstown Schools wants to make South Kingstown a world class school district by bringing in innovative technology to help students learn and teachers educate.
At Tuesday night’s school committee work session, technology director Douglas Snow said the school district has come far in its technological capacity and can go even further.

From 2001 to 2011, Snow said there were 500 mismatched computers to 1,600 Dell computers, but now there is standardization throughout the district. At first there was 10 separate domains, but now there is one district network domain. The phone system has also improved. Initially, the school district used a 40 year old 200 Analog phone system, but now have since used a Cisco VolP phone system. The phone bill decreased from $12,000 per month to $4,000 a month.

“We’ve gone from one of the worst in the state to a forerunner in technology,” Snow said.

To keep South Kingstown as the forerunner in technology, Snow said to the school committee that he hopes the school district could have one network, where students and faculty can log in to from the school building or from their homes using either their laptop, smart phone or gaming system like Xbox.

Although some schools are getting Ipads for each student, Snow said he didn’t see South Kingstown going in that direction.
“I see that as huge costs. Ipads for each student costs millions,” Snow said.
He also doesn’t see South Kingstown having 100 percent wireless coverage for all buildings, stating that it is unlikely the state would provide money for the school district to undertake that.

Current district hardware includes 45 Microsoft 2003 servers and backup devices, 75 Cisco network switches, 11 Cisco WAN routers, 25 copier/scanner/printers, 90 network printers, Cisco wireless controllers with 95 Access Points and 1,600 total Dell desktop and laptop computers.

To increase teacher classroom technology, Snow said he would like the school district to set up the system of Ncomputing, which can connect up to six users to a single shared computer. The cost of one machine is $62.

“They act like 11 other machines, but basically they’re running out of that one machine. It’s a huge cost savings for us,” Snow said.
Snow said Ncomputing is perfect to get machines and technology into the elementary schools.

Snow said the department went out to bid for 975 of Ncomputing machines. Snow predicts that over Christmas every elementary school classroom will have one.

Smart tables are also currently being test at Matunuck and Wakefield schools.

For the future to make South Kingstown the forerunner of technology, Snow hopes to engage teachers in the technology of their classrooms.
One way is to make the librarian the point person on how to operate technology.
“I want to try to do something where we get teachers interested but [librarian] is a key person to showcase the technology and also the person who knows how to run it,” Snow said.

Snow also suggested that the district create a new district policy on mobile device usage.

School Committee Vice Chairperson Dr. Anthony Mega said he hopes the policy would not limit technology for students.

“If I was being educated today, I’d feel my education would be short changed if I was inhibited from working at the level of technology. It’s easy to take a pessimistic view that they’ll be distractions. I see them as critical devices. To think of having a restrictive policy would seem to me we’re not working in the 21st century learning,” Mega said.
Currently, the district is working on a database interface for the state for school districts to submit reports. The district is also testing on-line high school transcripts.

“We’re moving toward a paperless society,” Snow said.

Snow suggested replacing the walkie-talkies the school principals use with cell phones, but Superintendent Dr. Kristen Stringfellow said the principals love the old fashion phones.

The virtual desktop will be the most exciting new project, Snow said. It will allow students and faculty to reach the school desktop and files from any device from any location.

“In the next year and a half this is where we should go. Students can bring in anything even an Xbox. It’ll let them be more flexible,” Snow said.

Many of the school committee members noted how they could support the teaching staff in learning the skills to use the new technology.

“I’m interested in how we support the teaching staff who may not be technologically sophisticated to try things out,” Stephen Mueller said. “The challenge is kids seem to have a firm grasp on how you can use it but it was the adults that needed to catch up. That’s something we can look at.”

Compared with neighboring school districts, Snow said South Kingstown has a low per student costs for technology. The cost for one student in South Kingstown is $129, while in Chariho it costs $273. A student from Barrington costs the district $168 for technology and a student from Lincoln costs that district $104.

“All and all, we’re on par for what we spend on technology,” Snow said.
From 2010 to 2011, the district paid $8,468 for supplies and parts, $11,440 for services, $15,683 for software, $119,436 for contracts and $170,607 for hardware.

Southern Rhode Island Newspapers
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