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CISD using latest technology to transform learning environment

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Posted: Thursday, August 30, 2012 1:08 pm

School transformation is occurring across the nation as the education community embraces the introduction of social media, virtual learning, mobile devices and web-based applications in educating today’s students.

Cameron ISD’s vision statement “Linking Learning to Life” reflects the district understanding of skills necessary for students to be successful in today’s global economy. “In order for the district to be successful in creating 'future-ready students,' educators, parents and the entire community must understand that learning is no longer confined to the walls of a school building,” Superintendent Collin Clark said.

Textbooks, worksheets, lectures and note taking are no longer the primary methods in the classroom. Professional staff development has focused on developing effective teachers’ use of subject matter and technology to facilitate learning experiences that advance students’ authentic learning, creativity, and innovation in collaborative face-to-face and virtual environments.

For the 2012-13 school year, the district is moving to a ‘cloud’ platform that will enable students to communicate and collaborate anytime, anywhere and from anyplace.

After piloting Google EDU last year, CISD is implementing the Google “cloud” solution and utilizing many web-based tools such as Google Docs.

Students will have access to their data, tools and academic resources from anywhere in the world so they can study their academic materials whenever needed.

These web-based tools are free for students and teachers, saving the district precious dollars on software licensing. The district has spent the last 12 months in preparing for this transition.

“It is very exciting to see this transformation occurring in our schools," Clark said. "The cloud is vital to future learning as it allows a combination of learning at school, virtual learning and learning at home.”

According to Clark, the role of teachers is becoming one that facilitates understanding, raising questions and designing tasks that produce actual learning instead of instructing.

This past summer the district overhauled the technical infrastructure to support the new educational environment, providing the foundation for the CISD instructional setting.

The Cameron ISD Technology department installed a new centrally managed wireless system from Meraki. The new wireless system is controller-based and managed through the Cloud, with over 100 access points, each capable of connections speeds of over 300MB. Meraki uses fingerprinting, with Google-like search, allowing administrators to easily identify and control individual users, iPads, Androids, and other devices.

“The new system will allow for more student devices to access the wireless network at greater speeds, enhancing the student’s educational experience,” Technology Director Kyle Deal said.

Utilizing the Instructional Materials Allotment, the district has purchased additional iPads for Ben Milam Elementary and Cameron Elementary. Each grade level will have at least one set of 30 iPads.

“We are excited about the instructional benefit of the iPads for our elementary school students," Assistant Superintendent Dr. George Willey said.

"Using these devices, students will be able to create their own online books to include photos and videos. Also, there are numerous applications available for the devices that are aligned with our elementary curriculum.”

The junior high and high school are utilizing Google Chromebooks as their primary device of choice. The Chromebooks are similar to a notebook pc in appearance, but differ in many ways. These devices boot up in less than 10 seconds, have a 10 hour battery life and are only capable of accessing the internet allowing for utilization of web-based applications only. They are perfect for cloud technology and cost much less than a traditional PC; the district can purchase more devices for students.

“The Chromebooks allow our students to use various collaboration and research tools that are available on the internet to create assignments that involve the use of higher-level thinking skills individually or in a collaborative setting with students in the same class, same school or with other students in schools from all over the world.” Willey explained.

Two YHS computer labs have also been converted to Chrome labs with the same capabilities as the Chromebooks.

Under the supervision and permission of their teachers, students may use their personal technology devices as instructional tools during class time, allowing for students to give instant feedback to teachers or research a topic. Students should refer to their campus handbooks for acceptable use guidelines.

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