Building for a Digital Future
by William Woody
Nov 04, 2013 | 1818 views | 0 0 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
OUTDATED – This cramped and overheated server room at Montrose High School is not up to the task of hosting the updated new computer technology the district’s new IT Director Steve McEwin says it must begin incorporating into the school curriculum for students to stay current. (Photo by William Woody)
OUTDATED – This cramped and overheated server room at Montrose High School is not up to the task of hosting the updated new computer technology the district’s new IT Director Steve McEwin says it must begin incorporating into the school curriculum for students to stay current. (Photo by William Woody)
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MONTROSE — In the next two weeks, Wi-Fi internet will be installed at both Johnson and Pomona elementary schools, and by May 2014, all schools within the Montrose County School District will have the same capability, thanks to a new strategy for integrating technology into the curriculum.

The district will hire contractors in the coming weeks to improve conditions in Information Technology server rooms throughout the district – including in Montrose High School, where poor ventilation keeps temperatures too high for suitable maintenance of sophisticated computer equipment.

For Steve McEwin, the district’s new director of technology, these basic improvements – and Wi-Fi infrastructure – are just the start of building a solid foundation for a digital future for the Montrose schools’ students and teachers.

“Without a foundation, you’re just wasting your money,” he said.

Other basic infrastructure this year will include, Wi-Fi, upgrades to the district’s server fleet, board-band services, IT ventilation, back-up equipment solutions and better email.

McEwin, 41, previously worked in schools in Texas where he recently completed a five-year plan to integrate more technology into the curriculum. By the time he left, he said, each one of his mostly junior high students had at least one mobile device to use in the classroom.

McEwin, who came onboard with the Montrose School District in July, recently delivered his technology assessment and recommendations to the board, reporting the district is on the right path by developing digital curriculums and investing in technology, but more needs to be done.

McEwin has traveled nationwide for the past seven years, advising and consulting school districts about implementing more technology in their curriculums.

“I think Montrose is about average,” McEwin told The Watch Tuesday, in comparison with other school districts. But, he added, “There are a lot of good things already happening, and with that, Montrose is ahead of the game.”

Laying down the framework for a future where digital technology is as common as are today’s pencils and notebooks is a premise McEwin is working to develop as he nears completion of his final presentation and cost analysis for presentation to the school community in the new year.

“Enable, Engage and Educate” are the three core principles, he said, in bringing 21st century learning technology to each district student and teacher, and the way to achieve that is through budget increases for technology and capital improvements. A five-to-seven-year plan costing approximately $3 million would transition Montrose District schools into about a 90 percent digital format, with each student having one digital device, he said, with the other

10 percent a mixture of new staff development and a rotation of devices, maintenance and infrastructure improvements. McEwin said weeklong training sessions would needed to get staff up to speed with the new technology.

Uno Books, iPads, iPod Touches, Dell and HP Windows-based laptops are all being considered, McEwin said; the district can utilize recycling programs as well, to refurbish existing technology. Delaying technology investment could drive the costs even higher, he warned, but the “ultimate goal” is to have students learning with mobile devices in school and at home. For example, schools in Orange County, Calif., that began investing eight years ago are now completely digital.

“That’s a pretty big shift for us,” said District Superintendent Mark MacHale, at the meeting.

At Columbine Middle School, about 100 seventh-grade students are using the first digital mobile devices ever used in Montrose County schools. If the district does implement a five-to-seven-year plan, those students would graduate from its high schools using laptops to complete reports and homework.

“Rather than doing their book reports on poster-board, it may be done in iMovie, or some other video editing software,” McEwin said.

At a board meeting in September, several Columbine students told members learning with the new iPads was more fun.

“I like that when you have a question, instead of going to ask the teacher, you can look it up on your iPad.

“It saves time, and it makes learning better,” said seventh-grader Lilian Davis.

McEwin, who is currently compelling his doctorate degree in Education Leadership Management from Capella University, has relocated to Montrose with his wife, Tina.
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