Mimio Global Press

Becoming technology-rich at OHS
Grant brings new technology into classrooms at Ontario High

by Jessica Keller

ONTARIO - March 4, 2011 - When Ontario High School math teacher Randy Waite wants to know whether his students understand a particular lesson being taught, he no longer has to wait until the next day after he has collected and graded their homework.

Instead, Waite now has his students solve a math problem displayed to them on the Mimio board in the front of the classroom and then log their answers in the classroom performance system devices, or clickers, assigned to them during class. After the last student enters his or her answer, Waite looks at the screen of his MOBI, a Mobile Interactive Whiteboard that acts like a wireless Mimio and sees how many students answered the question correctly or not. Depending on what he sees, he can either move on or adjust his classroom lesson so he can review the concept again.

Soon, his students will also be able to review or complete assignments using the 20 laptop computers for which his classroom was recently wired, as well.

If Waite chooses, he can still use the traditional instruction format of lecture followed by exploration and an assignment, but, he said, the technology gives him the option to switch things around.

"It doesn't replace the teacher. It just adds another way for (students) to grasp the concepts," Waite said.

Budgetary constraints often limit school districts' abilities to install "technology-rich classrooms" at schools, and Ontario School District is no different. The upgrades to Waite's classroom and two others at OHS were only made possible because of the $3.2 million three-year School Improvement Grant awarded to Ontario School District to help turn things around and make academic improvements at OHS after it was identified as a low-performing school.

School Improvement Grant funds can only be used for programs and enhancements at the high school to improve academic achievement and cannot be used to offset shortfalls or pay for regular expenses in the school district's general fund.

Ontario High School Principal Joe LaFountaine of the little more than $1 million budgeted for first-year improvements under the grant, district officials decided to set aside $105,000 for three technology-rich classrooms. Another $15,000 on top of that was then redistributed from other areas of the first-year grant budget and added to the $105,000, for a total of $120,000, so the district could make all the technological upgrades necessary for a technology-rich classroom.

The infrastructure and equipment upgrades to Waite's classroom, another math classroom and a social studies classroom were completed recently, LaFountaine said, and the teachers are beginning to incorporate the new technology in their instruction.

To make those three classrooms technology-rich, each received infrastructure upgrades - primarily wiring - to accommodate the new technology, 20 laptops for student use, one laptop for the teacher, a MOBI, an interactive white board or Mimio, a new LED projector, CPS devices or clickers and a high capacity laser printer. In addition, the high school hired a technology coach to help train the teachers how to use the equipment and give them ideas on how it can be used in classroom instruction, School Improvement Grant Administrator Matt Horne said. One of the teachers whose classroom was upgraded this year who is very skilled with the technology to begin with will also become a trainer to coach other teachers at OHS in paperless instruction.

"The side-by-side (coaching) model, especially for technology, is going to be most effective for us," Horne said.

More technology-rich classrooms are planned, as well, LaFountaine said. Three more classrooms next year and another three in the last year of the grant are scheduled to receive the same upgrades so the high school will have a total of nine technology-rich classrooms at the end of the grant's duration. A team is currently meeting to determine which classroom teachers will receive the technology upgrades in the next two years, LaFountaine said. In addition, when the new science wing is completed at the high school, another seven classrooms are going to have the infrastructure in place enabling them to become technology rich when the funding becomes available.

LaFountaine said so officials made technology-rich classrooms a priority in the grant for a couple of reasons.

"Mostly it was because our technology infrastructure at this high school has been suffering," he said.

The second but equally important reason is technology is such an important part of students' lives already, and incorporating that technology is already into their lessons is almost essential, if only to keep students engaged in their lessons and make them fun, interesting and relevant, Horne said.

"If technology just increased student engagement, that would be enough, but it does so much more," Horne said.

And even though the upgrades have only been in place and ready for use for a week, the students and teachers have already begun to make the most of it.

Horne said just in the last week students in one of Chad Hartley's social studies classes used the computers and technology to create and share Power Point presentations. The students then reviewed and provided feedback to each other's presentations through interactive Web dialogue in class that was later reviewed and expanded upon by Hartley.

"This is very high impact," Horne said.

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