09 22 2014

Van Teachers Receive Technology Upgrades

Surprise was the word of the week for teacher in-service at Van ISD.
In an effort to energize and motivate teachers and staff members, Van ISD Superintendent Don Dunn surprised teachers and principals alike with eBeam interactive board technology in grades kindergarten through third, and iPads for grades 4-12.
He ended the in-service week by announcing incentives for all employees of the district.
The interactive technology of an eBeam Edge allows teachers to make any white board into a interactive learning board. A small receiver that magnetically attaches to any whiteboard acts as a receiver while the included stylus acts as a pen, marker or mouse, depending on the activity.
Teachers can create their own lessons or find lessons on the Internet and project them directly onto this surface, allowing students to engage in a new way.
The iPad allows teachers to download applications and music from iTunes and then use the tablet with their projectors to create an interactive slate for learning, keeping students more engaged.
Superintendent Dunn said the general thought was smaller children would have more success manipulating an interactive white board than the small screen of an iPad.
“We realized last spring how far behind we were as a district when it comes to technology.  We had a few interactive boards scattered throughout the campuses but there was no consistency of what brand we were using.  Most classrooms had a projector and an Elmo, but the projectors were not ceiling mounted.
“Other than the middle school and the new construction at the elementary school, all the projectors were placed in the middle of the classroom on a desk or shelf and had extension cords run from the walls to them,” Dunn continued.
“This was not a very safe or efficient set up to say the least. The bottom line is, our kids were not using technology and our teachers had no access to it either,” he added. “If we are going to transform our kids into the 21st-century learners they have to become, we must get technology in their hands,” Dunn said.
Throughout the summer, senior administrators worked to find funding for new technology throughout the district.
Director of Instructional Technology, Trent Goodwin, worked to find the best product at the most competitive prices. Once the proposal was ready, they presented it to the board of trustees — without the knowledge of campus principals.
“We’ve known since May that we wanted to do this.  We knew our teachers needed a boost, and we knew the first week of in-service would be the perfect time to roll out the iPads and eBeam technology,” said Dunn.
“Not only would it give them time to get set up, it would also provide a great deal of motivation for our teachers.  But we wanted to keep it as big a surprise to as many people as possible, so we gave our principals the summer off from school board meetings,” he continued.
“This allowed us to freely discuss our proposals with the board and still keep it a big surprise to everyone else.  Our board of trustees was very supportive of everything we presented.  It worked out great.” Dunn said.
The technology department, along with school administrators, began unveiling the surprise during campus meetings after lunch on Monday.  The primary and intermediate campuses received their eBeam products first, followed by presentations of iPads for the middle school, junior high, and high school campuses.
Van Intermediate Principal Marty Moore shared her thoughts by saying, “Our teachers have dreamed of having a smart board in their classroom. Our campus had one smart board that teachers ‘shared’, but now is not even in working condition.
“When Trent Goodwin came in and did a demonstration on the use of the interactive boards, and said our district ‘is considering getting them,’ I could see the teachers’ excitement and thought to myself how everyone is getting their hopes up,” Moore added.
“When Trent did an unexpected drawing to give one away, I could see the anticipation growing in the room, and we had one lucky winner. I thought to myself, ‘Well, this is cool,’” she continued. “We are back up to having one working interactive board, and hopefully we can expand from here.
“The entire room was shocked, including me, when we heard the words coming out of Don Dunn’s mouth that every teacher would be receiving one. It was a happy first day for staff at Van Intermediate School! What a fantastic way to kick off our year,” she said.
“Now that our teachers have this new technology, it will be imperative Trent Goodwin, our new Director of Instructional Technology, train them on how to best implement it into their daily lessons,” Dunn said.
“Trent will have a technology training room on each campus where he can train the teachers on how to use their new devices. He has also scheduled one day a week on each campus to conduct such trainings,” Dunn added.
“We are excited about this new direction. We believe it will have a huge impact on not only how our teachers will teach their lessons but also on how much our kids will learn,” Dunn stated.
Goodwin echoed Superintendent Dunn’s excitement about the future of technology in Van ISD.
“Monday was an outstanding day for our staff, students and the future of Van ISD. The process of integrating technology into the classroom is the ability to connect students to the world beyond school, to provide various ways and means for students to express what they know outside the standard ways of paper-and-pencil methods,” he said.
“Our students know far more than we are able to test and technology is the avenue for them to be able to show their knowledge, not only to their teacher, but the world. The whole focus is to improve student learning and I think Van ISD has taken a very large step towards improving student learning,” Goodwin said.
Teachers were eager to share their ideas for incorporating their new tools into their lessons.
“I am so excited about the possibility of filming short scenes and having the ability to show students for self evaluation purposes. I also will be able to write short critiques, give verbal notes, and then discard, without wasting paper. I will be able to use music for movement exercises and music for plays using iTunes,” Van Junior High theater arts teacher Sue Wisdom said.
Sixth grade teacher Patty Garland expressed her eagerness to get home and begin adding apps to her iPad.
“I was absolutely thrilled when we received our new iPads. I went home last night and began downloading apps that I believe will help my students to more fully enjoy their language arts class this year,” Garland said.
Pre-kindergarten teacher Linda Housden said the eBeam technology would captivate her students’ attention and enhance their reading and writing activities in her classroom.
“We are so fortunate to work in a school district that has a vision for our growth in technology,” Housden said.
“I am so excited to share this with my students. This is another tool to help our little ones learn and succeed in a technology-driven world. I am so appreciative that the Van administration provided this for our students,” kindergarten teacher Vicki Tompkins said.
Although the first day of the in-service week was filled with surprises, Superintendent Dunn reserved a few more to help wrap up the week.
On Thursday, Dunn stated that Monday’s new technology was “Phase I” of a three-phase plan, noting that in Phase II, teachers in grades 4-12 would receive the eBeam technology, and teachers in pre-K/Head Start through grade 3 would receive iPads by spring, creating twenty-first century classrooms throughout the district.
“We wanted you to have the technology that would most immediately benefit you first.  But we want all our classrooms in Van ISD to have the same technology,” Dunn told teachers Thursday.
Phase III will bring wireless technology to the district by January 1.
“I’m not saying, ‘we hope’ to have wireless by January.  I am saying ‘we will’ have wireless by January.  The bid process to find a company to provide wireless internet throughout the district began several weeks ago, and the bid process ends tomorrow (Aug. 24) and we will pick the final four,” Dunn said.
“Once the bid process closes, we will choose a provider and they will have 12 weeks from the second week of September to complete the job,” Dunn said.
The final surprise of the week was presented by Dunn, Danny Morrow, and school board president Charles McCaffree.
“The board wanted to show the faculty and staff of Van ISD how much they were appreciated, so they decided to give every employee an incentive.  Half of the incentive was given on Thursday, and the other half will be given before the Christmas holiday,” Dunn explained.
“We just wanted to end our week with a bang, and we wanted to let our employees know that we think they are the best in the state,” he added.

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