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El Paso County Colorado District 49

Falcon school district slowly closing technology gap

Classrooms and teaching methods are changing to reflect society’s dependence on technology. Ten years ago, the President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology proposed a 5-to-1 student-computer ratio as a reasonable level to effectively use computers in the classroom. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the 5-to-1 ratio was reached in 2000.Most Colorado school districts have successfully made the transition to a technology-based classroom. One D 49 parent, Tom Harold, said he has done extensive research on technology in schools and his information indicates the average student- to-computer ratio in the state is 4-to-1. David Bond, D 49 chief information officer, said Falcon School District has a ratio of 6-to-1, falling short of the national and state averages.Falcon lags behind because the district has never provided clear direction for computer use in the classroom, Bond said. The general budget did not allocate district funds for computer acquisition, leaving school principals responsible to create a technology program and find the necessary resources, he added.Bond said he is working to close the technology gap in the district and is developing a district-wide program for computer acquisition and classroom use.”We definitely need more computers,” said parent Ann Fletcher. “In my dream world, every child would have a laptop.” But she said she would be happy to see at least one computer in every classroom.”Technology is driving society,” Harold said. “Everything is wired. Most business schools these days require personal laptops.” Harold said Falcon School District needs to prepare students to work in a world that relies heavily on computer technology. Computers also are excellent tools to help engage students and enhance the learning experience, he said.According to an education reform study by the U.S. Department of Education, students using computer technology take a more active role in the learning process. Instead of being the sole source for information, teachers become facilitators, setting project goals and providing guidelines and resources. Students work together in groups, manipulate data and synthesize information as they complete assignments.Teachers who routinely incorporate computer-based projects into their lesson plans also noted an increase in motivation. Students voluntarily spend extra time working on the computer to complete assignments as well as additional personal projects. The study also revealed that technology prompted students to complete more complex assignments and fostered a deeper understanding of subject matter than traditional methods.A few D 49 schools, such as Falcon Elementary and Stetson Elementary, are already experimenting with technology-based learning. Over the past two years, the Stetson Hills PTA focused their fundraising on adding computers to the classroom and donated 31 computers for student use. “Additional computers in classrooms have supported us in student assessment and concept/skill practice activities,” said Theresa Ritz, Stetson Elementary School principal. “Student research is also much easier to accomplish with effective computers in the classrooms. Our students utilize the PTA donated computers in research projects, both in collecting the research and in compiling it through reports, PowerPoints and spreadsheets.”Ritz said Stetson Elementary still has a ways to go to be up to date with technology, but the PTA computers are a step in the right direction.The plan that Bond and the D 49 Internet technology team are devising will bring computers to classrooms throughout the district.”If everything continues as planned, we will get approval from the board for the overall approach and will begin the process to develop and implement a district-wide technology plan next year,” Bond said.He said he expects that the process to fully close the technology gap will take several years.

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