And the CoSN Winners Are...
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As technology continues to push the envelope around the learning experience, it’s not enough for a district simply to install computers. The Consortium of School Networking (CoSN), a nonprofit group of school leaders dedicated to advancing the use of technology in the K–12 environment, recognizes those people and districts that go beyond the ordinary to integrate technology into the classroom experience. Winners in four categories—two TEAM awards, the Withrow Award, and the Award for Excellence in Public Service—were honored in late March in San Francisco during CoSN’s annual networking conference.
The Team Awards
This award recognizes two districts that significantly impacted the role of technology in transforming learning.
Despite being in a rural district of fewer than 1,500, students in the Kiel Area (WI) School District have many of the same learning opportunities as their urban counterparts. The district started a technology push eight years ago after voters approved exceeding the per-pupil spending cap to generate $150,000 a year for technology. District schools include a K–4 charter elementary school with a one-to-one wireless laptop ratio for pupils and staff. The Kiel eSchool, an online charter school, serves students in grades 6–12 year-round, with courses that aren’t offered locally and the capacity to allow students to work at their own pace to master one concept before moving on to the next.
Technology is also essential to the learning and outreach activities at St. Joseph’s Academy, a Catholic girls’ school in Baton Rouge. Every student and teacher has a Dell laptop for the wireless networking campus, and lessons have been redesigned to maximize use of technology. “We made significant changes to treat technology as a critical application,” says Jane Metcalf, director of technology.Selected students are trained and certified to work on the help desk that maintains and repairs computers, becoming paid part-time workers. Students also have set up computer labs at two local elementary schools and six public schools and two orphanages in Cordoba, Mexico.
Named after Frank Withrow, a longtime pioneer of K–12 educational technology, this award recognizes a leader in tech innovation.
Michael Burke views this honor more as a recognition of his 38 years in education than for the 11 years he’s spent as director of district media and technology services for Edina (MN) Public Schools. “Kids come in with a strong comfort level around digital technology,” said Burke of the 7,500-student district in a Minneapolis suburb. “We were analog, but they can multitask. We need to take advantage of that capability to help students be better motivated in the classroom.” Edina has invested heavily in technology during Burke’s tenure, moving from one computer per classroom and one computer lab per school in 1997 to a four-to-one student-to-computer ratio today. All computers used in the district are connected to the Internet and the district intranet through a fiber optic network.
Burke led the establishment of a secure web portal for parents of secondary students through which they and their students can check grades, course scope and sequence, assignments and calendar, as well as access online resources and teacher web sites. He oversaw a $3.2 million upgrade of the district’s voice, video, and data network in conjunction with the district’s Technology Advisory Team, which Burke chairs. He also co-chairs the school board’s technology budget oversight committee, which oversees district technology funding initiatives.
Award for Excellence in Public Service
This award recognizes the outstanding work of an elected or appointed public official to promote the use of technology in K–12 education.
During his first term in office, Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell won $1.8 billion in increases for education spending for PreK–12. Now in the first year of his second term, Rendell has proposed a $500 million increase for the 2007–2008 budget year. It includes $26 million for Classrooms for the Future, which will transform teaching and learning by equipping 100 high schools with laptop computers on every student desk in English, math, science, and history classrooms. This $250 million, three-year comprehensive high school reform project creates the chance for every student in the commonwealth to go to high school, where they will find a laptop on every desk and a teacher highly qualified and prepared to use these resources to help students become 21st-century learners.