COLONIE — The South Colonie Central School District has plans to begin using smart technology, and a Smart Schools Investment plan outlines the proposed expenditures to do so.
In 2014, Gov. Andrew Cuomo implemented the Smart Schools Bond Act, which called for the state to invest $2 billion into schools in an effort to incorporate the latest technology into classrooms with the intention of making students more prepared to compete in the digital global economy upon graduating. Smart School funding can be used to install high-speed broadband or wireless internet, high-tech security features in school buildings and around campus, and to purchase learning technology equipment, according to South Colonie Central School District’s plan.
In November 2014, the state allocated $2,051,700 to South Colonie to utilize the Smart School plan. However, in order to access their funding, schools must have their plans approved by a review board first.
According to South Colonie’s plan, devices that can be purchased with the state funds include interactive whiteboards, computer servers, desktop computers, laptops, and tablets. The money can also be used to cover expenses associated with installing any of the new devices, and schools do not have to use all of the funding at once. Rather, schools can spread out the purchases and installations and submit multiple plans for review.
South Colonie has plans to purchase more than 2000 Chrome devices over the next three years, according to its plan. It also has plans for wireless expansion and replacement. In its current plan, which lists expenditures by school year, South Colonie has plans to spend a total of $868,000 on classroom technology over the next four years, $459,200 on Chromebook replacements, and $724,500 on wireless access points, along with server and security upgrades.
According to the plan, the district is planning on purchasing Chromebooks and iPads because such devices are “proven to have a positive impact on student learning” and make learning much more mobile, allowing students access to the resources they need at any time. SmartBoards (think a television-sized screen tablet), according to the plan, will increase student engagement in the classroom and be able to accommodating many different learning styles.
The district will be updating its wireless network and infrastructure this summer to be able to handle the large influx of new technology, according the plan. The district plans to provide continuous updates to work alongside the ever-changing nature of the technology. Faculty will undergo professional development during the initial implementation stages to the end, and day-to-day support will be provided along with a Teachers Support Center for the technology.
The district will also be utilizing different methods of feedback to track whether or not the new technology is having the desired effects. Students and teachers will provide feedback, and there will also be conducted classroom observations.
The district’s preliminary Smart Schools Plan was presented to the Board of Education in June 2016. The Board hopes to finalize the approval of the plan and submit it for state review later this month. The timeline for security updates might be a bit lengthier, with the final security update plan submitted to the state for review between the months of October and November. District officials anticipate that the project will receive state approval by April of 2017, with work on the new system hopefully to commence by next summer.
The complete plan may be viewed at southcolonieschools.org.