Greenfield readies springboard to technology leap

District OKs system upgrades that will lead to new learning opportunities

Nov. 5, 2013

Greenfield — Local schools have started laying the groundwork for a major leap toward a greater computer presence in classrooms to enhance learning.

The Greenfield School Board last week gave the go-ahead for a computer engineering firm to streamline and update the district's infrastructure to support whatever technology plan the district chooses.

The district has set aside $3.5 million to spend over the next three years to get the district where it wants to be, technology-wise.

"It's an exciting time," said School Board President Bruce Bailey. "We should have enough money to have one of the best technology systems in the state."

Ideas in the works

Although the specifics of the plan are still not nailed down, school officials want technology to support and enhance the curriculum from kindergarten through 12th grade, said Superintendent Lisa Elliott.

Whether that means all students in some grades will have their own devices — laptop computers such as Chromebooks or tablet computers such as iPads — or whether as many as three students will share one device has yet to be decided, Elliott said.

In December, school officials will attend conferences dealing with these questions and will visit other school districts to observe how their systems work, Elliott said, adding that local officials should have a pretty clear focus by early spring.

Some pilot programs should be under way in classrooms by fall, she said.

Parents, too, will eventually see changes tied to technology in the form of more reliable and wider access to information, Bailey said. Among other things, they will be able to pull up their children's homework assignments and their scores on ACT college entrance exams and the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam and compare them to averages.

The shift also will mean teachers will have to make adjustments.

"We need to work with teachers on how teaching and learning will change," Elliott said.

First, the pathway

For now, though, all the work is going on behind the scenes on the infrastructure. The district has 32 computer servers that will be pared down to eight. One modern server can replace as many as five older servers, such as the district has, said Ben Sylvester with K-12 Technology Group, the firm hired by the district to redesign the system.

Because the district has invested in its infrastructure in the last couple of years, that will bring down the cost of the revamp, Sylvester said.

At least the timing is sensible, Bailey noted.

"Some of our servers are from 1998 and need updates now," he said. "So it was sort of good we were behind."

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