Iowa City schools debut $2M EveryClassroom technology campaign


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The last days of the oversized chalkboard and clunky overhead projector are here — at least in the eyes of the Iowa City School District.

Officials say the aging examples of technology must be removed in favor of SMART boards, document cameras, and multimedia projectors, in order to push the state’s fifth-largest school district into the competitive educational world of the 21st century.

At a Tuesday morning meeting at the Educational Services Center, 1725 N. Dodge St., district officials, the University of Iowa Community Credit Union, and ACT publicly kicked off a $2 million EveryClassroom Technology Campaign. Citing transformational changes in technology and education, Iowa City-based ACT pledged $250,000 toward the initiative.

“Our classrooms have remained fairly stagnant,” School District Foundation campaign manager Susan Brennan said. “The power and how technology has transformed how we live can have a tremendous impact in the classroom. [Campaign funds] go directly to how and what we teach our kids.”

She said preliminary stages of the campaign — which will invest roughly $5,000 in each of the district’s 800 classrooms by the 2013-14 school year — began 18 months ago in a silent phase. The equipment and installation themselves will cost $3,400.

“In the end, every single building and every single classroom will have [them],” she said. “We have over half the classrooms outfitted with this technology. Of the total classrooms in the School District, 400 are equipped with all three components.”

According to the Foundation, 43 percent of the $2 million will dedicated toward the implementation of SMART boards. Document cameras and multimedia projectors will account for 11 percent and 8 percent, respectively. To date, nearly all elementary schools have all three components. The true technological gaps, instructors say, lie within the secondary level, in the junior high and high schools.

Superintendent Steve Murley said an initial analysis of all district classrooms was done in 2011 that determined what each school had and what was still missing.

Murley noted that in the 2011-12 school year, West High had just two SMART boards to serve its nearly 2,000 students. This year, West has nearly 20. The technological upgrades, he said, coincide with the recent diversity policy passed and will affect every one of the 12,000 district students.

“When PowerPoint came out, people didn’t see the real differences between them and overhead projectors,” Murley said. “Kids today are technology natives, whereas older people like me are technological immigrants.”

Christi Bangsund, an instructional coach specializing in technological education at Wood Elementary, called the campaign a “huge undertaking” but “much needed.”

Her advice to weary educators is to start small and to try to fit the SMART boards, multimedia projectors, and document cameras into lesson plans and everyday activities to become more comfortable. She said she has noticed that with the use of the technology, classroom distractions have actually decreased.

“It’s all about setting up expectations,” she said. “If you expect [children] to do this during this certain time, the opportunity for learning is great.”

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