Thursday, October 24, 2013

Superintendent Luna Sees Sugar Salem High's Technology Pilot in Action Today

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna visited Sugar Salem High School this morning, spending nearly three hours visiting classrooms and talking with school board members, students and teachers.

Sugar Salem is one of 11 schools that was selected earlier this year to participate in the Idaho Technology Pilot Program, which the Legislature established in 2013.

The goal is for these schools to utilize $3 million in state funding to pilot innovative technologies that, if successful, might later be duplicated in every school across the state to give Idaho teachers the tools they need to help raise academic achievement.

Sugar Salem was awarded $454,783.20 to integrate laptop technology in the high school grades. Through a one-to-one laptop initiative with HP 4440s notebook computers and a wireless network, this pilot project will create a New Generation Learning Environment with learning opportunities both in the classroom and beyond the walls of the classroom.

Sugar Salem High has already made significant progress in a short amount of time.

“What you see at every classroom that we visited today, and I’m sure it is happening in all classrooms, is students that are heavily engaged in learning. They are engaged in problem solving, they are creating work, and the classrooms are very interactive. There is a high level of learning going on here,” Superintendent Luna said.

Students using technology as they study Hamlet.
Mr. Edwards, a senior English teacher, said teaching with the technology is "so much fun, it's not really a job."

When Sugar Salem first launched its pilot project this fall, district superintendent Alan Dunn invited all parents to a meeting about the new technology. About 60 parents showed up, and district staff were on hand to explain the new technology, how it would be integrated, and answer any questions.

After the meeting, a group of parents offered to form a committee to help with implementation throughout the school year. They meet regularly to hear parent concerns, gather suggestions and help communicate with the school administration about the technology pilot program.

"We believe this will be a benefit to us,” Superintendent Alan Dun said. “I don't believe test scores will rise dramatically. The biggest issue for us is that we're preparing students for some things that aren't testable.”

Jared Jenks, High School Principal, said, “The pros outweigh the challenges we have had. Discipline problems? I’ve had zero.”

How are teachers in Sugar Salem using the new technology?

One English teacher utilizes Canvas, a free software, so students can turn in their assignments electronically. The teacher marks the assignments up through Canvas and grades them. Then, he records a video message to the student about the assignment, so the student has immediate feedback from the teacher.

Sugar Salem English teacher demonstrating Canvas software to grade papers and give students immediate feedback.
The new technology also is saving teachers time. Student Matthew Chandler said, “Our teachers don’t have to schedule time for computer labs because we have our own computers.”

These are just a few of the examples Superintendent Luna saw on his brief visit to Sugar Salem High School.

“Here at Sugar Salem, it is a great example of what we hope to see in every high school around the state, sooner rather than later,” Superintendent Luna said after his visit.

Sugar Salem also was one of the first high schools connected to wireless connectivity through the new statewide contract. As of today, 14 schools have hardware installed for wireless infrastructure and four are fully connected.

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