Tue, April 07

Technology advances in Camp Verde schools

Nine-year-old George Kilsby knows more about computers and computer programs than many adults thanks to advances in technology at the Camp Verde Unified School District. Kilsby is a fourth grader at the Camp Verde Elementary School.

The march forward to prepare children to meet future challenges began during the Clinton administration with the introduction of the National Education Technology Plan. That concept trickled onward to the state and local levels, where it appears to be taking root.

In Camp Verde schools for instance, technology has seen a rapid advancement over the past two years. Thanks to the Students' First grant, the same funding source that helped pay for the new elementary school, computer labs are now in each school.

In the elementary school, 28 computers are used to teach and for doing research, says Gary Lagoy from the Camp Verde Unified School District's Technology Department. There are now 26 computers used primarily as a teaching lab where the school provides a full-time computer teacher, Debbie Hough.

At the high school, there are 18 computers used as a "resource lab for the most part," said Lagoy

Claudia Wenholz, director of technology for the district, said that when she first arrived a few years ago after working as a telecommunications specialist for Boeing in California, the district was just starting to put in a "definity switch." The electronic switch allows for the installation of a telephone system that saves the district a lot of money and provides direct telephone access to each classroom.

The same grant that provided the definity switch also provided funding for the whole school's intranet and internet computer access, Lagoy said. Teachers can now do attendance directly on intranet using a program called "School Master." That data can then be quickly sent to the State of Arizona for its records. The Camp Verde District is also working on a program to post grades through the same application.

The eventual goal, Wenholz said, is to give parents direct access to their children's grades using a special password protection program. One of the biggest advantages right now with the advances, she said, is e-mail. E-mail provides an easy two-way conversation via the internet between parents and their children's teachers.

For the first time, district teachers are now beginning to incorporate internet activities with their curriculum. One of the most "exciting aspects is that children are now able to learn about computer technology at a "much earlier age.

" Children at the elementary school level are actually going into the computer lab as part of their classroom studies to learn how to use the keyboard through the Mavis application and are instructed on programs such as Word, Power Point (for presentations, documents and art work) and the Internet. By the time, elementary school students enter middle school, they will know more about computer technology, than many adults, agrees Lagoy.

And there are more exciting advances coming, Wenholz said.

"We are currently working with School Facilities Board to access Application Service Providers (ASP), a contracted access to applications and files from the Internet. It will save the district and state money in accessing these applications," she said.

Under the current system, providers charge each district a license or user fee. By going through the state contracted ASP, there will be more than 200 software titles aligned to the Arizona state performance objectives available free to students to use at home and at school, Wenholz said.

This update was mandated by Arizona State School Facilities Board earlier this year and she expects the new mandated programming to begin sometime after Christmas.

The specialty server is designed to provide everything from information lockers to e-mail services, lesson plans, encyclopedias and even tutorials for both students and teachers. Individuals will only need a password to access options from anywhere including safe Internet access, a mandate of the Children's Internet Protection Act passed in December.

Unfortunately, new technology costs money.

Wenholz explained that there is currently no budget for the Technology Department. Whenever they need to purchase something not paid for by grants, Wenholz says she "puts it in a capital plan (we go with bare bones)." It then goes to the school superintendent, who takes the total budget to the board of directors for approval. Just last week they needed to purchase zip drives and discs for the special education teacher's reports.

At a cost of $300 apiece for 14 teachers totaling $4,200, they were only given enough funds to purchase six.

Even with tight budget concerns, Camp Verde appears to be in-line with today's technology movement.

According to the 2,000 U.S. Education Report, 67 percent of the schools nationally now have computer access in one or more classrooms; 53 percent of teachers with school-based e-mail addresses; and 5.8 students on the average for each instructional computer.

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