The Lawrence school board today points a cursor toward ideas for better harnessing technology in classrooms.
At the end of a two-hour study session, board members should know more about how the district integrates technology into the curriculum, the potential cost of buying federally mandated Internet filtering software and options for upgrading the district's computer network.
Current methods of allocating computers to the district's 26 schools also will be on the agenda. More than 2,600 computers are scattered throughout the district, but the ratio of new computers to students in elementary schools ranges from 11.8 computers per student at Quail Run School to 3.2 computers per student at New York School. The elementary average: 5.9.
It's a study session that's been a long time in the making. It was scheduled to occur five months ago but was overtaken by more pressing school affairs.
"The last time they tried to do it was April 30," said Mike Eltschinger, the district's director of instructional computing.
He said the extra time permitted staff to compile a 1-inch thick book outlining all aspects of the school district's technology program. That document will drive board discussion at the 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. public meeting in district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.
Eltschinger said the district would benefit from a clearer vision on how classrooms should be outfitted to deliver the reading, writing and math curriculum.
"What skill sets do kids need to graduate?" he said. "How does that fit into various grades?"
Funding for teacher training is another consideration if the board's goal is to have educators routinely use computers in class to explain difficult concepts, Eltschinger said.
The school board also will get an earful about the Children's Internet Protection Act. That federal mandate requires U.S. public schools to install Internet filters to block pornography and other information lacking in educational merit.
If districts don't comply by July 1, they lose federal government technology grants. That could mean loss of as much as $140,000 in the Lawrence school district.
"We need to look at the implications and what we have to filter," Eltschinger said.
He said the district's computer network also needed attention. Backup servers and storage capacity ought to be improved. Other priorities are to upgrade elementary computer labs and the computer systems in secondary schools.
District staff recommends that expenditures for computer hardware remain above $1 million for the next three years. About $250,000 in annual software upgrades are likely necessary.