Teachers in Sherman will have a new set of tools at their disposal when they return to the classroom following summer later this year. The Sherman Independent School District approved more than $3.3 million in spending for technology upgrades across the district Monday night.
This upgrade of district technology marks the first full-scale technology replacement initiative by the district in nearly 12 years, district officials said. These changes, which started this spring, will be rolled out through the majority of 2019.
“It is an aggressive schedule and frankly it is aggressive because frankly every day that goes by with technology you are missing out,” SISD Board President Tim Millerick said.
The initiative to replace and upgrade the district’s technology started last fall as a committee of educators, parents and community members started working on upgrading the toolkit that teachers will have access to in the classroom.
While the district addressed the majority of these tools Monday, SISD Director of Technology John Folmar said the district is still looking into student devices and a centralized printing station. Additional equipment, including classroom speakers and microphone systems were previously approved in March.
The largest expense in this technology upgrade will come in the form of 530 new 75-inch Vivtek panel boards that will be installed in each district classroom. These panels, which resemble large televisions, will replace the traditional projectors and smart boards that have been a mainstay in districts for many years.
The panels will allow teachers and students to project images, video and other data onto the board using wi-fi and Bluetooth connectivity. The boards will also allow instructors and students to write over the image using specialized electronic pens.
The devices will also allow the teacher to pull images from a student’s device, including smart phones and laptops, and display it for the class to see. As an example, district officials demonstrated the board using laptops distributed throughout the meeting space.
The panels will be able to connect to each other over a localized area allowing teachers to share information.
Mignon Plyler, Sherman director of innovation and instructional technology, said the panels have been tested out at several campuses with strong results. Plyler said the only concerns that were brought up regarded durability, but she said this likely is not going to be an issue.
Plyler demonstrated this by hitting and pounding her hand against the panel, which showed no signs of damage. Folmar noted the panels will come with a five-year warranty and have an expected lifespan of about seven to 10 years.
These panels will interface with 750 new laptops that will be assigned to faculty and classrooms. These computers will be replacing the desktops that district faculty currently uses. District officials said the laptops would allow for greater mobility for teachers and be useful for teachers who do not utilize the same classroom throughout the school day. The laptops will also give the teachers computer access during non-classroom duties, including in-service days.
The district plans to upgrade other classroom technology alongside the laptops. Officials said this will include 600 docking stations, 750 carrying cases for the computers, 640 24-inch monitors for classrooms and wireless document cameras, among other items.
SISD Superintendent David Hicks said one of the pieces of the tool kit that still needs to be addressed are student devices for the classroom. The district will continue to encourage students to use their own devices, but is looking at options for district-provided devices.
“We will be bringing to the board a recommendation to purchase computer technology for all schools and campuses,” Hicks said, noting that these will likely come in the form of Chromebooks, laptops or iPads.