Julie Smith

Oct 31 2012

Inside Rhode Island’s Classroom Technology Integration Initiative

Partnership with CDW•G gives schools easier access to technology and training at deep discounts.

Technology certainly has changed how we find information, how we spend our working and free time, and even how we ­interact. But its place in the classroom remains very much in flux.

Although some teachers are ­hesitant to embrace technology and how they can incorporate it into their ­curriculum, many schools around the country are making great strides in integrating technology into their classrooms. In fact, 71 percent of the students and 77 percent of the teachers ­surveyed by CDW•G earlier this year reported that they are using more classroom technology today than they did just two years ago. The Learn Now, Lecture Later report that summarizes the survey findings notes that increased ­technology integration is changing instructional models as well.


A recent example of this sustained commitment to classroom technology integration can be seen in the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (RIDE), which is now offering a compre­hensive IT package to the state's 327 schools.

The initiative, announced this fall, aims to promote educational ­equity and improve classroom ­engagement by giving 142,000-plus Rhode Island students and 14,200-plus teachers ready access to technology and ­resources, regardless of grade level or subject area. More specifically, it allows school IT leaders to choose from an array of products — Lenovo notebook computers and software from Microsoft and DyKnow, for example — and solutions, such as wireless access, at a competitive price.

Equally important, the package includes extensive professional ­development — both online and hands-on training — through Educational Collaborators, Intel Teach, KeyStone Learning Systems, Edmodo and Microsoft Professional Development. To make it easier for districts to support new classroom technology without adding IT staff, the package provides single-source help desk, asset management, onsite deployment and maintenance support for up to four years through CDW•G and Avnet Integrated.

Rhode Island's efforts to facilitate classroom technology integration in all schools are noteworthy because they focus on far more than simply using devices. Providing the necessary professional development and ­curriculum support that can help schools maximize technology's ­ability to enhance teaching and learning ­ultimately will lead to ­improved ­student performance in the short term and better preparation for college and the workforce in the long term.

The Time Is Now

Technology integration is just one of many changes affecting K–12 ­today, however. Another seismic shift is the emergence of the "flipped classroom" model, in which the teacher functions as a "guide on the side" rather than a "sage on the stage" so that students can steward their own learning experience through collaborative activities made possible (or enhanced) by all kinds of technology.

In "Now & Later," ­educators and IT leaders in California, Maryland and Michigan explain how technology deployments, professional development and more engaging classroom activities are changing what, where and how students learn.

As Mark Washington, director of technology and media services for Michigan's Port Huron Area School District, so aptly notes, "Kids today have TV, radio, the Internet and ­other sources of information to ­engage them constantly. This is how they operate, and we have to utilize the technology and meet them at their level."


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