Jul 23 2013

Idaho's $3 Million Ed-Tech Pilot Hopes to Unearth Classroom Innovation

In an effort to gather meaningful information and data on its investments, the state’s department of education is conducting an in-depth trial period.

The state of Idaho may be known for its bounty of potatoes, but the Idaho State Department of Education (ISDE) is no small fry when it comes to investing in education technology.

At the beginning of July, the department announced a $3 million ed-tech pilot for 11 schools across the state as part of the Idaho Technology Pilot Program.

“This is another step forward in providing equal access and opportunity to all Idaho’s students,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said in an official statement. “The demand for technology in our schools continues to grow. Through these grants, we will be able to meet the needs of just some. In the future, we will take what we learn from these pilots and expand our efforts so all students – not just those who are fortunate enough to attend these schools – but every student in Idaho has equal access to the best educational opportunities.”

To be eligible for the pilot, schools had to pitch a full integration model specifically intended to improve student academic growth, with demonstrable statewide scalability and long-term sustainability beyond the pilot.

The schools selected for the program were Beutler Middle School in Dayton, Compass Public Charter School in Meridian, Discovery Elementary School in Meridian, Idaho Distance Education Academy based in Deary, Kuna Middle School in Kuna, McCall-Donnelly High School in McCall, Middleton High School in Middleton, Moscow Middle School in Moscow, Park Intermediate School in Weiser, Parma Middle School in Parma, and Sugar Salem High School in Sugar City

Kuna Middle School in the Kuna School District received the most funding, pulling in $891,200.20 of the $3 million allocated for the program. According to the department’s official release, the school will use its funding to establish a one-to-one program with Samsung Chromebooks.

ISDE Director of Instructional Technology Alex MacDonald spoke with Government Technology about the pilot and highlighted some of the rationale behind the decision making that went into fwhich schools would be selected for the pilot.

“This is a big, holistic project, because there was no cap on the amount of funds for requests,” he said. “The premise was to look at what was going to be sustainable and scalable across Idaho. We wanted to make sure we had a very diverse group of devices and strategies to study, and take a look at over the next two years.”

Like many states across the nation, Idaho hopes that its investment in education technology and innovation will inspire new ways of learning for its students.

“Part of what we’ve driven for the grant to do was districts move toward what that may look like. It may no longer be the traditional classroom where students are in rows. They’ll most likely be doing activities, rotations, getting out in the community -- so that’ll be exciting to see what those full integration models look like,” MacDonald said.


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