Fri, April 03

The Digital School House<br>Arizona leads nation in technology applications

Photo styling by Paula Blankenship

With new technology investments from the School Facilities Board, children can get back to school via a special statewide server on the Internet, no school bus required. At Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District in Cottonwood, administrators got an early start expanding its existing systems and cabling to provide fast and reliable service to all campuses.

"Arizona has been recognized as a model for the rest of the country," said Phil Geiger executive director for the Arizona School Facilities Board before this month's presentation at the Fourth Digital Education Leadership Symposium in San Francisco.

"Arizona will lead the nation in the delivery of educational tools and resources while saving tax dollars," he said referring to a $27.9 million application service provider contract to Cox Business Services. "Students will be able to access their own work and the school district's software from any place on the planet through the Internet."

What this means for Verde Valley students is the development of life-long learners.

"It's expansive and provides more information than we could ever teach," said Julie Larson, assistant superintendent for Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District. "It's just what we want for kids."

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.

Like many online services, individuals will simply need a password to access an array of options including safe Internet access, a mandate of the Children's Internet Protection Act passed in December.

According to Geiger, the state's new server is a model for the nation in the implementation of technology in education.

For parents it will simply mean access to a digital one-room schoolhouse, everyday.

Presumably in the coming months, finding out what Johnny's doing in second hour will no longer be a mystery to be solved around the dinner table but rather on the desktop. With parent passwords, curriculum plans, grades, homework and even the ability to send a child an email retrieved at school, parents are only a click away from the classroom.

Teachers too will have 24/7 access to state-of-the-art education modules.

"The ASP is the most cost-effective curriculum deliver and will provide a model for the nation in the implementation of technology in education," wrote Geiger to school officials across the state in August. "Additionally, the network will provide 20 Cisco Academies, 20 Microsoft-Authorized Academic Training Programs, ASSET professional teacher training, an Intel Model School Program, smart cards and smart card readers, and a variety of education and awareness seminars."

As the site becomes functional, the Arizona Department of Education will also benefit because the ASP can provide Student Accountability Information System compliant student information management systems, as mandated by Proposition 301. SAIS provides comprehensive data collection on district students ensuring accountability, say its developers.

The ASP is currently being piloted in three schools including neighboring Sedona-Oak Creek District. Arizona's technology initiatives include bringing the computer to student ration to 1 to 8 in every district.

For some educators this means additional training and for many it will come in the hands of students.

"I've had students helping specific teachers out as far as learning about computers," said Mark Schumacher of Mingus Union High School. "The students already know quite a bit and interfacing with people who don't know much about computers helps them to work on that level too."

The School Facilities Board will provide more than 250 free software titles and numerous opportunities to learn operating systems like Excel, Power Point and Front Page, necessities in our technology age.

"When these become part of teachers they can of course use technology more effectively," said Larson. Qwest is currently installing networking, caching engines and other electrical upgrades for schools across Arizona.

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