Clark and Champaign County schools have invested millions of dollars in classroom technology and electronics to make sure students are ready for college and careers.
Local taxpayers have also agreed to contribute more money to make sure students are getting the best education. And to make that a reality, superintendents said, schools need to be sure students are learning tech skills that could lead to high paying jobs.
For instance, Northeastern Local School District residents approved a $79 million bond issue that will allow the district to build two new schools. One reason behind the district asking taxpayers for new facilities is the lack of electrical infrastructure in the district’s current buildings.
Technology is a big part of today’s education, Northeastern Local School District Superintendent John Kronour said, and that’s different than when he began teaching.
“While the buildings, the brick and mortar, look very similar, what goes on inside of those buildings is so much more advanced and technology is a seamless part of that anymore,” Kronour said.
Two other local districts, Clark-Shawnee and Greenon, are in the process of building new schools and also plan on adding newer technology for students that the districts can’t offer now.
“This plan would provide for safe, warm, great facilities to our students with technology in the classroom for today’s education,” Clark-Shawnee Superintendent Gregg Morris said.
Also, Springfield City Schools invested more than $6 million to give every student in the district a laptop.
“A one-to-one technology program provides accessibility features that help our students access content and build confidence in their learning style,” Springfield City Schools Superintendent Bob Hill said. “The district strives to ensure that our students are future-ready for pathways that include college or career.”
Technology coming to new buildings
The Ohio Facility Construction Commission lays out a number of technology pieces schools should include in their new buildings.
Interactive whiteboards, interactive displays, classroom audio systems, and the building being fully wireless throughout are just some listed by the OFCC, architect Michael Ruetschle said.
The OFCC publishes the Ohio School Design Manual and inside lists expectations and possibilities for districts building new schools. Because all three districts in Clark County are using OFCC money to help build the buildings, they are expected to work with and follow the OFCC guidelines, officials have said.
The manual makes clear that the OFCC expects school leaders, technology designers and architects to work closely from the beginning of the project so students and teachers can best utilize technology.
“The technology designer shall coordinate with the district regarding the bandwidth needs of the district,” the manual says. “The increase of wireless devices and increased bandwidth requirements may necessitate an increase of bandwidth coming into the district building(s). A review should also consider ongoing maintenance cost for increased bandwidth.”
Along with the interactive displays, the OFCC also calls for an interactive monitor in each classroom. These allow for teachers to present information effectively, the manual says.
The monitors can also allow students to finish work on it, according to the manual.
Also, the OFFC calls for schools to use technology that conserves energy.
“The specification of technology equipment (computers, A/V displays, etc.) that have the energy star label is preferred, when applicable,” the manual says.
Kronour said the district has worked to implement as much technology in their current buildings as possible.
“All of our high school students have a Chromebook that they have access to 24 hours a day,” he said. “They take it home and have it in class.”
However, it’s been tough making sure every space in the current building has connectivity. Kronour wants to make sure the new buildings are designed to ensure that computers are able to connect everywhere, he said.
“I am anticipating we won’t have any issues like that,” Kronour said. “There will be a test run ahead of time to make sure there is wireless connectivity everywhere. That will be a part of the process.”
A change over time
Modern classrooms and education plans are different from the 80s and 90s and that’s because it’s important to keep up with new technology so students can be best prepared for college and careers, said Global Impact STEM Academy Director Josh Jennings.
“It’s a reflection of the society that we live in,” Jennings said. “The idea that we would have students sit in a classroom with textbooks and no technology at their fingertips is absurd considering the world that we live in where information is so accessible. Let’s access the information and then lets work on skills attributes and dispositions of what do we do with that information. Let’s become creative thinkers.”
Scott Spohler is a science teacher at the STEM academy and has taught for 28 years. The change since he started teaching to know is noticeable, he said.
“In the beginning, it was pretty much all worksheet driven,” Spohler said. “I can remember the first time I got a device that went on an overhead that you can finally project the notes on a screen. And then from there, we got Powerpoint and it’s gone on.”
Now, Spohler has the ability to call a student’s iPad onto the screen and watch the student do work in real time.
“It’s much more hands-on,” Spohler said. “That can be a lot more meaningful to the kids because they can see how a peer does it not just how I do it.”
Having the technology in the classroom is beneficial in many ways, Jennings said. Students do sometimes get distracted by the devices, but that is expected. The school works to teach students how to properly use them, he said.
“By students having that technology at their fingertips in a classroom, we are also teaching them what is the socially acceptable uses of technology,” he said. “We do have some distractions but its a tool for students to learn to get through that distraction so when it gets really important when they go to work or college they are not crippling.”
Even with the advances over the last decade, Jennings still believes in the fundamentals of education, he said.
“Student teaching relationship is number one. You can’t get anything out of your kids unless you have built a relationship. That is key and critical. There is a lot of instructional practice that goes along with it and the technology supports it.”
Kronour compared the change in technology to how people put gas in their car. Previously, he said, a motorist had to go inside the gas station to pay for gas and sometimes someone else pumped the gas.
“It’s so different and education is probably ten-fold different,” he said.