New tech initiative for Baraga Schools

BARAGA – The Public Schools of Calumet, Laurium & Keweenaw and L’Anse Area Schools have each introduced technology initiatives to put a personal piece of technology in the hands of students. Baraga Area Schools may be next.

BAS Grades 3-12 Principal Jon Young announced the initiative during Monday’s regular school board meeting.

“Technology is such a large part of what we do. It’s such a dramatic tool in terms of being able to work with students,” he said. “… My main objective in attending that conference was identifying some strategies and things we could use to put a 1-to-1 initiative in place for Baraga Schools.”

Many schools and districts across the country are expanding their technology offerings through 1-to-1 (1:1) computing initiatives, which provide every student and teacher with a personal digital wireless device that includes up-to-date software and access to the Internet at school.

The process is still early in the planning phases, but Young noted the following three key components the district will have to plan for:

Funding, both in the initial phase and in sustaining it long term, including maintenance costs.

Training, with an emphasis on getting teachers up to speed for effectiveness in the classroom.

System-wide adoption. “Right now a lot of the strategies out there that are the best practices are you walk in and take everything that you’ve got existing in terms of textbooks and you throw them away and go with the technology,” he said. “Realistically that’s the idea you really have to go with – an extreme approach in terms of how you adopt these technologies system-wide.”

Young has narrowed down the device search to two possibilities: Apple iPads and Google Chromebooks. The district currently has 20 iPads to experiment with and a Chromebook is on order to compare it.

The iPad is projected to cost $349 each at a volume discount of about $50, and the Chromebook in the $250 range, such a difference because Google’s product utilizes cloud-based technology instead of requiring the storage of the iPad.

The district has channeled the funding it will get through the state’s 22.i grant, which has a primary goal of technology readiness, particularly for the move to making standardized tests online. Further funding sources are being explored, but much of the money could simply come from infrastructure changes.

“What we would normally set aside for textbook costs is another funding source,” Superintendent Jennifer Lynn said. “… It’s not about learning the content that you’re going to read and regurgitate. It’s about learning the processes, it’s about learning problem solving, it’s about learning the tools. That’s all via technology today.

“… Instead of spending money on dinosaurs, we need to shift into the new generation.”

In other business at Monday’s meeting, in addition to the budget concerns detailed in a related article, the board:

approved the resignation of three individuals: Art teacher Robert Foster, who has been teaching for more than 28 years, language arts teacher Jerry Roach and assistant varsity football coach Tyler Larson.

approved continuing with Jeff Markham as golf coach. He is also the district athletic director, and his 15 years of service were acknowledged Monday.

approved naming Daryl Putala junior high track coach. He has also expressed an interest in coaching cross country.

approved the following teaching contracts: a third-year probationary contract for Lisa Collins and Caroline Reinsch, a fourth-year probationary contract for Emily Mayer and tenure for Lisa Wilson and Benjamin Johnston.

approved a one-year contract extension for Young as grades 3-12 principal.

approved a resolution supporting an American Drug and Alcohol Survey in the district.

went into closed session to discuss Teamster negotiations, but took no action once it returned to open session.

announced the Copper Country Association of School Boards Awards Dinner is scheduled for April 24. The district is serving as host at Michigan Technological University’s Memorial Union Building Ballroom.