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A step up in technology

Technology needs at the Osakis Public Schools came up for lengthy discussions at the School Board's two work sessions, May 3 and 8, and at the regular May 8 meeting, resulting in tabling the subject for two weeks to gather more information, and to hire a technology integrationist specialist.

An integrationist's job would include enriching and supporting teaching and learning, while strengthening the technology skills of students, teachers and staff. Teaching experience would be required.

The specialist position was to be posted in-house May 9, and a job description was being updated.

The vision for the School Board, along with Supt. Randal Bergquist, is for the new integrationist to wear three hats: Work with teachers in the classroom or media center; help with assessments; and to be the go-to person for social media and the school's website.

The district's present four-year technology plan is completed in August. Board member Genny LeBrun commented at the work session, "When we went to iPads, maybe we didn't get as far as we wanted, maybe because we didn't have an integrationist. It's about how you are using technology to augment your curriculum. A person like this is a step up."

Board member Monika Klimek cautioned at that meeting, "The integrationist has to be protected from computer repairs, etc., in place of teaching."

Klimek, along with board member Mike Collins, and Supt. Bergquist, comprise the Technology Committee which met with staff to create three technology update options for the coming school year.

The options ranged from $181,969, to the most expensive plan costing $241,200.

At the May 8 meeting the School Board, at the urging of Chairman Becky Hensley, decided to get the integrationist in place before choosing a technology purchase option, so the new integrationist could be a part of the technology discussion.

Discussion included if this purchase would be a two- or four-year option. First State Bank of Osakis has offered to loan the district $200,000 for the technology purchase, to be paid back with four $50,000 per year installments. This is the same offer that the School District used four years ago to update the district to the iPad program.

Hensley inquired about how much technology is now being used in the classrooms. She asked, "What are they using it for in their classes? To look up stuff? How do we want them to use it?" She suggested possibly offering classes to the teachers to help them implement the technology in the classrooms.

Discussion also included the fact that many of the juniors and seniors are enrolled in college classes, and some of those students are bringing their own computer devices to school to use with those classes. Would they also be issued the new Chromebooks?

Bergquist said Best Buy has a program for student technology that is offered on a payment plan. This program might offer the college class enrolled students an option, and could also give them a headstart for the technology they will carry with them to college.

Families who could not afford their own computers would be offered the Chromebooks.

The three options before the School Board include a one-on-one device; touch or non-touch Chromebooks for grades 9-12; or touch or non-touch Chromebooks for grades 7-8.

Also included in the proposal are Chromebook sleeves, repurposing present high school iPads in three carts for the elementary, and three carts of non-touch Chromebooks for the elementary.

The options also include seven days of staff development training and a year of support through the Tierney Professional Development Training/Support system.

Each option calls for 275 iPads to be traded in, for a savings of about $17,000 for each option.

Delaying the decision too long is a concern that the technology will not be in place for the 2017-18 school year opening in September.