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Technology Plan 2006-2009

    Prior Plan Review

    Because the new eSP planning process and new eRate rules have effectively shortened the duration of the prior plan, the prior plan has been in effect for only eighteen months. In addition, six months after the inception of the plan, the district's long-standing technology coordinator retired and was not replaced for nearly four months. As a result, many of the goals have not seen completion. However, much progress has been made in the face of these adversities.

    Curriculum revision to provide alignment with the Pennsylvania Academic Standards and integration with technology has been on-going. The district adopted the web-based tool icTracker, from Colonial IU 20, to standardize, store, and share curriculum. The tool has been used to write K-12 Math and English curriculum to date, ensuring consistency and alignment with standards.

    Since the hiring of the new technology coordinator, professional development opportunities in technology have been growing and are expected to continue growth. These opportunities are essential for teachers in the technology integration process, as they provide them with awareness of the technologies available to integrate and best practice for their integration. Professional development opportunities are currently available from our IU, in face-to-face workshop form from our technology coordinator, in one-on-one sessions from our technology staff, via step-by-step guides on our Intranet site, and via peers in the professional forums section of our web-based groupware application. In the future, web-based interactive guides may also be made available, in addition self-paced and traditional web-based courses.

    Student acquisition of 21st century workplace skills and technology ethics is improving. A revamped Acceptable Use Policy coupled with the implementation of better filtering and network administration software has set clearer expectations of student behavior when using district technology resources. The upcoming rollout of the iSAFE program will also help to add to students' 21st century workplace skills, imparting to them the behavior necessary to maintain Internet safety. The district is also in the process of rolling out a unified network configured to provide a consistent interface and persistent access to user data at all district workstations. Computers and the computing experience become more reliable is encouraging student use of the district's computers for school purposes, as well as encouraging teachers to integrate technology into their lessons and assignments (this has a circular effect). Particularly in the high school, productivity applications are being used by students in ever-greater numbers in virtually every department.

    Data gathering and analysis is a very important goal for a district like North Pocono - improving it is a goal of the highest priority. Achieving this goal is being hampered by an out-of-date and poorly extensible Student Information System (SIS). Fortunately, the district selected and purchased a new SIS in October 2005. In December 2005, an implementation plan was developed, and data conversion and training have already commenced. The new SIS will be in place and functioning as the primary data tool for the district by July 2006. This system will also serve as the grade book and attendance tool for teachers beginning in the 2006-2007 school year, as well as a portal for parents to communicate with teachers, track child progress, and review child achievements. It is expected that the implementation of this system will go a very long way toward improving teacher productivity and supporting data-driven decision-making.

    The district's recent implementation of a new web-based groupware system, complete with multiple training opportunities and methods, will be the basis for improved electronic communication. The new system, which includes server-stored, virus- and spam-filtered E-mail, a shared address book with a district directory, shared calendaring, and mailing lists, facilitates rapid, easy, anywhere, anytime access to fellow employees and groups of employees (as well as anyone else with E-mail). In its first week alone, the system delivered hundreds of internal messages...a vast improvement. As soon as a public directory is posted on the district website, this will also provide improved communication with parents and the larger community. The District has also hired a public information officer, who has made preparing information for the district website a priority. With the district webmaster, he has helped to implement a sophisticated athletics calendar on the website, while also posting timely stories about district happenings and maintaining an upcoming events section as well. To ease and more evenly distribute this process, the District is exploring content management systems for the website at this time. Having rolled out an Intranet site, the District is also in the process of building content for that site as well.

    Improving hardware and software resources is a challenge for any district. North Pocono is approaching it by first developing a planned replacement cycle for all computers. This is essential for budgeting and for ensuring a consistent level of computing capability. In addition, to prevent unexpected costs and significant downtime, all computers will be purchased with a service agreement to cover the replacement cycle when possible. Core software is leased to maintain currency/reduce cost, while other applications are purchased, with the understanding that a support agreement will be maintained as long as they remain in use.

    The District's network has also received significant improvements. A faulty core switch that was over a decade old remained the main distribution facility for the district's network for over a year. A replacement core for the 100Mb switch was ordered in the summer of 2004; however, it remained uninstalled in a closet until the new technology coordinator began his duties in the summer of 2005. The new 1Gb core switch is now in place, supporting the consolidation of servers into a new district datacenter. Where servers had previously been repurposed desktop computers scattered about classrooms, closets, and offices, now all district servers are outfitted with redundancy, battery backup/surge protection, a temperature-controlled environment, a network tape-backup system, an access-controlled location, and 24-hour monitoring. The District still needs to rid the network of much 10Mb wiring, upgrade Internet connectivity, install a wireless overlay, provide redundancy for interbuilding fiber-optic cable runs, and upgrade WAN connections to off-campus buildings. However, the progress to date is incredibly helpful. The District will continue to evaluate emerging network technologies as it attempts to upgrade the network.

    In short, much progress has been made; much remains to be made. The district remains committed to seeing the vision through.

    Mission Statement

    It is the mission of the North Pocono School District to provide its students with an exceptional academic education by utilizing a progressive staff who has access to high-quality professional development, modern facilities supported by advanced technology and equipment, and a rigorous, standards-aligned curriculum that demands high levels of achievement and prepares students for higher learning and professional success in a global marketplace.

    Vision Statement

    The North Pocono School District views technology, when properly applied, as an effective and necessary tool for students, faculty, staff, and administration in the pursuit of an excellent, academic education. Technology can enhance communication, increase productivity, and improve both the depth and speed of learning. Each of these consequences is significant to the educational process itself. Yet, the impact of technology is also important to the end-goals of education as well. In this, the Information Age, technology is the platform for fundamental business processes; proficiency with technology determines the extent of one’s access to information, the efficiency of one’s problem solving abilities, and the effectiveness of one’s communication skills. While it is certainly still possible to educate students without technology, it is not possible to provide students with an education that prepares them for higher education and the 21st century workforce without technology.

    While it is clear that the impact of technology on education can be great, it is not enough to simply have technological devices in a school building. Technology must be used and used properly; else it becomes little more than a distraction or an expensive paperweight. The application of technology as a tool and not as a goal in and of itself determines the effectiveness of technology in education. The vision for technology in the North Pocono School District focuses therefore not only on technology acquisition, but just as importantly on professional development and curriculum integration; the absence of any one of these components will prevent the realization of our vision and ultimately the failure of our mission.

    By the conclusion of this technology plan, at the end of June 2009, administrators will conduct business very differently than they do now. They will be independently utilizing data retrieval and analysis systems to view, manipulate, and analyze data in order to make data-driven decisions. They will have ready access to a wide variety of data sources regarding student achievement, from national, state, and local assessment data to course-level grades. They will make use of the district’s student information system to acquire information as they require it and to enter information as it becomes available, from scheduling and attendance to discipline. In short, they will have everything needed to pinpoint problems and successes at both the student and curricular level. This will in turn allow them to make adjustments designed to ensure that all students can meet state standards and district goals. To quickly and frequently keep parents, community members, teachers, support staff, and other administrators updated, they will utilize electronic communication systems, like E-mail, instant messaging, web pages, and collaboration websites. Administrators will model appropriate use of technology for personal productivity and data-driven decision-making, and require similar use from their students, faculty and support staff.

    Teachers, by the end of June 2009, will also have ready access to student data and will be capable of independently using tools to view, manipulate, and analyze this data in meaningful ways. They will also have easy-to-use data entry portals for the district's databases. These data entry portals will provide teachers with ways to record and therefore track student progress through assessments of their own design. Standards-aligned, web-based curriculum supplements, such as CompassLearning Odyssey and PLATO, will also provide additional formative and summative assessment data for teachers. All of this data, in turn, will provide a clear, in-process picture of each student’s progress, shaping the curriculum immediately for individual students and current classes and long-term through curriculum revision for future students. The result – students will have an even better opportunity to meet state standards. In addition to having mastered data-driven decision making, teachers will also have mastered and effectively employed business-class productivity tools as an example to students and as a necessity in orchestrating the many responsibilities they must actively participate in. Finally, they will integrate technology into their curriculum - not simple employ it, but employ it according to best practice. For instance, when employing electronic presentation software, teachers will not project notes in ten-point type; rather they will use electronic presentation software as the visual tool that it is, marking talking points, displaying visual aids, and providing interactive learning stations. Better yet, teachers will put this tool in the hands of students who will be required to use it as a visual aid in making presentations to demonstrate mastery of a learned concept. Technology integration will far surpass the use of electronic presentations, however. Teachers will expect advanced use of word processing tools in the writing process. They will demand appropriate use of spreadsheet programs in math, science, and business courses. They will encourage student use of technology for personal productivity and enhanced communication. Teachers will use the Internet, starting with maintaining space on the district website and using that space to branch to other rich resources on other sites. They will use the Internet to enhance communication with students and parents. They will use the Internet to provide new modalities for teaching and learning, such as online course management tools and software that builds a community of learners. All of these tools will not become the content of courses but simply a tool that students learn to employ as part of the normal work of courses. Again, the outcome of it all? Higher student achievement and students better prepared for higher education and the workforce.

    The end of June 2009 will see support staff members, who already use technology to carry out much of their daily responsibilities, employing the technologies available to them in more efficient and effective ways to simultaneously reduce man-hours and improve productivity. They will share data rather than redundantly creating it. They will share documents rather than duplicating them. They will communicate electronically to save time, reduce paper usage, and enhance documentation. They will mail-merge using central, common databases, rather than manually creating ad-hoc databases on a per-document basis. They will contribute to a common electronic district calendar, rather than maintaining multiple separate calendars. They will employ spreadsheets that perform automatic calculations. They will use groupware to schedule their workgroups, manage projects, and track their activities. In short, they will use technology to know where they and those whom they support are and should be at a moment’s notice. They will use technology to work as a team rather than as disassociated offices.

    Every bit of the vision enumerated thus far has been constructed to support the district’s mission to use technology as a tool with which to supply students with an exceptional academic education. Therefore, the most significant and important changes related to technology will happen in the student realm. By the end of June 2009, when this plan concludes, students in the North Pocono School District will have a very different view of technology than they have today. Today, technology is regarded by students as an entertainment and personal communication medium that has only an occasional tangential relationship to what happens in school. The successful completion of this technology plan will have students beginning to understand that technology is a tool that helps them get more done in less time. They will understand that technology provides them with more learning opportunities and more ways to demonstrate their learning. Because research has shown the persistent, daily access to computing and the use of technology for personal productivity both have a measurable impact on student achievement, the district will provide students with greater access to this sort of technology. That means that “anytime, anywhere” technologies will be emphasized, taking advantage of the promise of the Internet to provide students with access to learning, communication, and productivity tools from school computers, PDAs, mall kiosks, public library computers, and home computers. With teacher guidance and online learning programs, students will be able to identify their own weaknesses, establish remediation plans, and achieve mastery: one standard at a time, at a pace suitable to the student, at a location conducive to that student’s learning. Communication tools like E-mail and messaging applications will be implemented for students to help them communicate in a structured way with faculty and outside experts – to get help and information when and where they need it. Students will also be given access to productivity software that they can use anywhere – online courseware, office applications (including an open-source version for home). This emphasis on “anytime, anywhere” learning has the additional advantage of making it convenient for parents to regularly and conveniently interact with teachers, review their children’s work, track their children’s progress, and participate in the educational process. As a result, all of these technology tools will build, with teacher guidance, a community of connected learners – parents, teachers, and students – establishing true educational reform and new modes of teaching and learning.

    And, by the end of June 2009, technology will become a primary conduit for how the community interacts with the school district. E-mail and voicemail will become well-advertised services for each district employee. The district website will become a portal with a more detailed, real-time, comprehensive events calendar, supplemented by mailing lists, newsletters, and public document archives. It will also provide secure access to parents for grades, attendance, discipline, scheduling, health, transportation, and cafeteria account information. Streaming media, where appropriate, will also be provided to the community through this web presence. In short, technology will not just be used to improve communication within the school, but also between school and home and between school and the community.

    To make all of this happen, equipment must be acquired to provide administrators, teachers, staff, and students with sufficient access to state-of-the-art technology. By the end of June 2009, all computers in the district will be less than or equal to five years old, having been refreshed by a standardized replacement cycle. To lower costs, improve availability, and speed support, the district will have established a standardized computing platform, abandoned inkjet printing, and implemented shared, network printing district-wide. Non-traditional computing devices, such as PDAs, notebook/tablet PCs and peripherals will be added to support educational programs. As a result of a district-wide building project, all classrooms will have multiple network drops, to support a variety of technology devices. To support mobile devices, the district will have embarked upon the building of a district-wide wireless overlay. The network backbone will be extended to include off-campus buildings at at least 100Mb speed. In addition, to support ever-increasing use of the Internet and Internet2, the district will have joined the Northeastern Pennsylvania Regional Wide Area Network, providing high-speed connections to the Internet, Internet2, the other school districts in the region, and shared services.

    So that this wide variety of technologies and skills associated with their application are properly implemented, the district will expand its technology professional development program. District employees will have access to printable usage guides on the district Intranet, interactive web-based tutorials, a web-based support portal, electronic and face-to-face training workshops, and web-based professional forums for peer help. And, as new products are put in place, vendor training will be purchased and used when cost-effective.

    The North Pocono School District’s vision for its technology program is very aggressive, but essential. The District is proud of its history of providing its students with an exceptional education, and wants to continue that tradition. Likewise, it is committed to helping its students meet and exceed the demands put forth by the Pennsylvania Academic Standards. In both cases, a state-of-the-art technology program is an essential component in achieving the goal.

    Goals and Strategies

    1. Teachers will integrate technology into the curriculum in multiple subject areas.
    2. All students will use technology to access and analyze information from a variety of sources, including the Internet.
    3. All students will master technology skills that are requisite for the 21st century workplace, apply these skills in solving practical problems, and demonstrate positive ethical behaviors when using technology.
    4. Administrators and teachers will employ technology to gather, share, and analyze real-time information to support decision-making at the district, school, and classroom levels.
    5. The district will use technology to improve communication within the district as a whole, between educators and parents, and between the district and the community.
    6. The district will provide the state-of-the-art hardware, software, networks, and technology resources that will be relevant to students in their future workplaces and effective in accomplishing both administrative and instructional tasks.
    7. To join an affordable, high-quality, Wide Area Network (WAN) connecting our district to IU 18 and IU 19 and its member school districts and vocational-technical schools using high-speed broadband connections.
    8. To effectively use the WAN for providing quality, affordable administrative and educational content directly into the hands of staff and students.
    9. To provide benefits to the community-at-large by driving deployment of new commercial infrastructure and encouraging regional applications of technology.
    10. District employees will utilize technology to become more efficient and effective in their jobs, avoiding the duplication of work, and collaborating on projects when feasible.
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