FDCSD works to meet tech challenges

The Fort Dodge Community School District has more than 500 Chromebooks and 1,800 personal computers in its buildings. Being able to offer a 21st century classroom with up-to-date technology, though, comes with challenges.

Prominent among those is budget, according to Jeremy Pearson, FDCSD director of technology.

“Technology is an expensive thing, and we do everything that we can with our limited budget to keep up to date technology in front of our kids,” he said.

The FDCSD board increased the technology budget this year, Pearson said, and so more technology will be available not just to children, but teachers.

“We’ve got a proposal in place where we’re allowing teachers to come to us and say, we’ve seen this technology or we think this technology will help us in our classrooms,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll fund those over the summer, because the increased budget they’ve given us is not enough to just buy a device for every student. It’s not that kind of budget.”

One-to-one laptops is not feasible for the district at this time, Pearson said.

“At our scale, one-to-one is a difficult situation just because of sheer numbers,” she said.

Another consideration is maintaining an infrastructure.

“People hate to talk about infrastructure because nobody sees it,” Pearson said. “Our infrastructure, our wireless and wired networks, our servers, everything has been maintained and is in great shape, and we swap those devices out as time allows. But it’s hard to take away from the budget that buys technology for kids, because that’s what everybody sees. It’s a harder sell.”

Electricity is a problem, too, as most of the district’s buildings weren’t designed to meet such a need.

“Over at Duncombe school, a 100-year-old elementary building, we have a hard time providing enough electricity for all the computers. So that’s a struggle,” Pearson said. “But our maintenance department does a phenomenal job of making sure we can get to what we need to as we can.”

This year, the district continued its efforts to update desktop computers. They are now all five years older or newer, Pearson said.

“This is the best the district has ever been in the 17 years I’ve been in the district, age-wise,” he said. “And we will continue to replace all the old machines as we can and as budget allows. We’re on task to do another 120 desktops this summer.”

With the 2014-15 school year, the FDCSD will be adding two technology integration coordinators. The two instructors, one an English teacher and the other a social studies teacher, will work between the information technology department and the curriculum department.

“They’re not IT people, they’re teachers who have taken technology they’ve used over the years and infused that into curriculum pieces,” Pearson said. “They’ll work all across the district on integrating technology into the classroom. That’s going to be their main goal.”

According to Pearson, the district has done well providing technology to students.

“We’re not the richest department or the richest district in the world,” he said, “but we do make use of every cent that we get and put it towards getting great technology for kids.”