Monday, September 22, 2014

COBBS: Connecting Cyclones with technology

By RYAN COBBS, Ottawa High School | 3/11/2014

In my past two columns, I have shared our progress on several items with which Ottawa High School has focused its attention, including our accreditation processes, implementation of Common Core standards, and a vast number of changes in our assessment processes. This week, I would like to inform you about “Cyclone Connect,” the proposal that would place a computer in the hands of every single student enrolled at OHS, including those at Ottawa Virtual Learning Program and Ottawa Learning Center.

Kristi Miller and Keith Lane began this process two years ago by piloting a 1-to-1 program in both their Geometry and Algebra II classes, using iPads and a program offered by Lumen Touch. This pilot provided us with a great deal of knowledge about what we needed, what we wanted, and what our technological infrastructure could handle. Since then, we have experimented with Lenovo tablets in an effort to determine if we could meet our needs with a touch screen tablet device while also adding to our infrastructure and wireless access throughout our building.  

I presented a proposal to the school board Monday to purchase 750 Toshiba Chromebooks to be provided to every student on the first day of school for the 2014-2015 school year. Our teachers, technology department, and students did a great deal of research on using technology to drive instruction, the devices that provide us the most options for our students, an operating system that will allow us to access the resources that we need, and a cost structure that makes it affordable and sustainable to our district. At the end of our process, we have determined that we can meet our needs with the Chromebook and are excited about the opportunity to propose this option to the school board.

The proposal would involve a considerable amount of training for both teachers and students. Some of this already has begun for our staff, however, we will extend our training to include the use of Google, including Google Drive and Google Docs, Office 365, which will provide us access to Windows Office based programming including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc., and a program called Hapara. Hapara might be the most intriguing of all the programs, as it will allow teachers to “take control” of their students’ devices. The teacher is able to look at the screen of every computer in their classroom on their own desktop. They are capable of controlling access to only the programs or sites that they allow for their students to view, and they can provide sharing options so that students sitting on opposite sides of the classroom can cooperate in their work without ever moving seats and ultimately turn in one document that they both participated in creating. Hapara provides a number of other options for us as well, however, I thought I would share these as I have responded to a number of questions regarding how we plan on controlling the devices.

The options for OHS to provide 21st-Century learning opportunities for our students will increase dramatically with the implementation of “Cyclone Connect.” OHS will we be breaking down the normal barriers of the eight-hour school day into one that is available 24 hours a day. We will begin to communicate digitally, not only with our own students, but with students around the world. OHS will be able to access current information instead of relying on outdated textbooks, and create a system in which our students will never have to lose their opportunity to learn because of snow, amongst a great deal of other opportunities.

We are very excited about this proposal.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Jeanne Stroh, Ottawa superintendent, for her ongoing support, as well as Andy Price, director of technology, for all of his work in making this a reality, our staff at OHS for all that they do, and our student committee — Koby Becker, Carter Bowman, Rylee Catlin, Dustin Ewbank, Bradon Kinn and Julie Lutz — for all of their work in making this a possibility.  

Dr. Ryan Cobbs is principal at Ottawa High School. Email him at cobbsr@usd290.org or call (785) 229-8020.

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