Ed Tech Readers Share Their Views On VoIP And Beefing Up Security

Readers discuss the need for effective professional development for teachers, the cost savings of voice over IP (VoIP) and school safety.

As follow-up to the Ed Tech article my school district was featured in (“Wiring Schools for VoIP,” Summer 2003), I wanted to highlight some of the funding plusses we have experienced since our implementation of VoIP.

When we first looked at VoIP, we tried to figure out what the ROI (return on investment) would be and it looked like it would take a little over six years of savings to cover the initial cost of the system. However, after installation, we were pleased to find that we would have payback in a little over four years. The savings in operating budget costs will definitely be welcome in these tight budget times.

Also, the additional phones and the ability to use individuals already employed in the district to run the system have proven beneficial. We were able to implement and maintain VoIP with existing employees, utilizing one full-time phone person who handles the maintenance for the Octel 350 voice mail system and a ITS accounting clerk.

The savings, use of existing employees and expanded phone access have been a winning combination for our district!

—Ruth Weddle, Executive Director of Information Services,
Blue Valley School District, Overland Park , Kan.

With today’s funding challenges, many school districts are turning to technology as the answer. Technology allows schools within the district to share resources, lowering costs on a per-school basis. Please see our funding story (“Funding in Crisis,” p. 45), which shows how some school districts are sharing resources, equipment and services to save money during tough economic times.

As the co-founder of a nonprofit dedi cated to helping schools use technology, I see firsthand the struggle to use technology for instructional purposes. Two major barriers stand in the way of this success-limited on-campus technical support and a lack of professional development opportunities. Many schools now have the basic technology infrastructure that’s needed but lack a dedicated technology coordinator to provide full-time IT support. Inoperable hardware, networking problems and a lack of troubleshooting skills can keep integration efforts from succeeding.

The second and most important need for schools is a well thought-out professional development program. Teachers need the knowledge to effectively utilize the resources they have available. With all of the demands upon today’s educators’ schedules, professional development should be held regularly on-campus and focused on skills they can use immediately in the classroom. I would love to see articles inyo magazine that address these two issues and provide case studies focusing onsch that have been successful in their efforts.

—Jason Pariso, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer,
Katapultz, Inc.

Many of our readers share your concerns about limited technical support and lack of professional development for teachers seeking to integrate technology into the curriculum. Our Teaching the Teacher section (p. 14) recognizes these challenges. We will continue providing school districts with articles pertinent to these important issues.

As Superintendent of Schools in Teaneck, NJ, I was delighted to see that Ed Tech’s inaugural issue (Spring 2003) included the cover story, “Bridging the Teachers’ Technology Gap,” which features insights from Teaneck’s Supervisor of Instructional Technology Services, K-8, Marisa Cohen.

From the establishment of our network infrastructure and the purchase of over 1,500 computers in our schools, indeed technology is always on the move in the Teaneck Public Schools! We a re proud that Teaneck continues to be a leader in the state of New Jersey with our integration of technology into the curriculum at all grade levels so that our students have the requisite tools to enhance active learning.

With technology on the rise in many districts throughout our nation, magazines such as Ed Tech, with a focus on K-12, becomes a valuable resource as educators prepare students for the future. The Teaneck Public Schools district, and especially Whittier Elementary School, is proud to have been featured in the first issue. The very best of luck.

—Harold Morris, Superintendent, Teaneck Public Schools,
Teaneck, New Jersey

Congratulations on your accomplishments. There are so many school districts around the country that recognize the value of integrating technology in education. Our case studies (“Cutting the Cord: Wireless Labs,” p. 32) offer more ideas on how schools leverage technology to keep students interested in learning as well as promote administrative efficiency.

I was very impressed with Ed Tech magazine! It was well organized with a wide variety of articles and content. The color photos, charts and ads were all very well assembled and presented. It is a great publication and I wish you continued success with it!

I especially enjoyed the article about security (“Securing Schools In The Homeland,” Summer 2003), where my school district was featured. It was nice to read about other districts around the country and know that we are on the cutting edge with digital cameras and fiber optic network.

The articles on wireless data were also very good. In case you didn’t know, we can also access our CCTV systems at the two high schools from inside or outside the building via a Sony Vaio and wireless card. Our officers can arrive at a burglar alarm at the school and actually look around the halls and through the camera systems before entering the building.

—Alan Bragg, Chief of Police, Spring Independent School
District Police Dept., Houston, Texas

Security in our schools is a very important issue. With increased violence in schools over the years, it’s a top concern for educators and parents alike. Please see our cover story (“Tracking with Technology,” p. 18), which explores how schools are using electronic ID cards and biometrics to identify students and monitor their activities.

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Reader Spotlight

Ahead of the Curve: CCDS Adopts Tablet PCs

When students at Cincinnati Country Day School show up for classes this fall they’ll be toting brand new Tablet PCs rather than their usual notebooks. After developing and successfully implementing a notebook program seven years ago at CCDS, Joe Hofmeister, director of technology, is taking the school to another level by introducing the Toshiba 3500 Tablet PC to all teachers and students from fifth to twelfth grade.

Hofmeister was intrigued by the capabilities of the new technology. “The Tablets provide an increase in functionality that’s worth the move in that direction,” he says. Hofmeister decided to introduc e the technology at CCDS after trying them out in a huma nities course earlier this year. The test run was so successful th at some students purchased the Tablets right away. But oth ers were more skeptical: What can you do with a Tablet that you can’t do with a notebook computer? “As it turns out, the new functionality seems to strike at the very heart of things—a completely new way of expressing yourself,” Hofmeister explains.

The wireless revolution started at CCDS back in March 1996 when Hofmeister was convinced that the school needed to jump on board the notebook bandwagon with both feet. The students’ families purchased the notebooks and the school supplemented the purchase for teachers and approximately 18 to 20 percent of its financial aid students. But the total immersion “just about killed us,” Hofmeister says.

While total immersion made for a difficult year, it also made Hofmeister, his staff and the teachers at CCDS experts on integrating notebook technology into the classroom.

They now hold seminars at CCDS helping other schools to develop similar programs.

So how will CCDS adapt to yet another complete technology immers ion? “I’m sure there will be b umps in the road,” Hofmeister says, “but we are pretty excited by the prospects and we feel that our seven years of experience with notebooks will serve us well.”

Oct 12 2006

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