With the help of our community and their support for Whitmore Lake Public Schools, the first year of sinking fund technology updates is well underway. This is an exciting time for our district. Most of the classroom technology is old and will not support updates in 2020, so this is where our focus begins.
All instructional staff received new hybrid laptops, Microsoft Surface Pros. These laptops bring a mobility aspect to the classroom and allow teachers to instruct and facilitate without being tethered to their desk, which is always positive for student interaction. For our special education staff, the laptops have been an integral component to their co-teaching roles, as they travel from classroom to classroom throughout the day working with students. It has been a very positive experience thus far to see how teachers are integrating the new technology into their classrooms. Mrs. Sloan, second grade, used the laptop camera to project, or “live stream,” the hatching of the classroom chicks so all of her students could watch and enjoy the moment without having to huddle around them!
Classroom projectors were also replaced with wireless, laser, Benq projectors. These are built for classrooms and work perfectly with the laptops. Mrs. DeKeyser, our middle/high school counselor, was able to easily connect to a classroom projector, wirelessly and present to a group of seniors. She could then walk around the classroom due to the flexibility of the new setup.
In addition to the new projectors at the elementary school, an interactive component was also added. Cameras were installed on the projectors, allowing teachers to use special pens to interact with their computers from the front of the room. Mrs. Otterman, a third-grade teacher, facilitates the math lessons and has students demonstrate their knowledge using the interactivity. Down the hallway in second grade, Mrs. Schneider uses the interactive projector to demonstrate cursive writing as students work through the same pages in front of them.
While summertime seems to be the normal time to upgrade and bring in new technology, it was decided to start over spring break in order for teachers to begin “playing around” and seeing the capabilities of these new instructional tools. I can’t lie and say there have not been some hiccups along the way, but we are all learning together. As teachers come up with new ideas on how to integrate the technology, I am working hard to give full support and ensure they have what they need to make great things happen in the classroom. Our elementary principal, Mrs. Wanamaker, has been impressed with all of the staff embracing the new technology, trying new techniques, and really going all in.
The next few projects will be coming this summer, with an upgrade to the network infrastructure and the replacement of the high school PC labs. For the network, new switches, cables, and power supplies will be added across the district, as with the age of our current switches, this will add needed reliability and stability to our network. The PC labs will be converted over to Chromebox labs. This option is less costly than new PC labs and students will find a familiarity with the Chrome operating system.
We are excited to see all of the changes taking place and look forward to long-term solutions to keep our technology current and bring a high level of engagement and interactivity to the classroom.