When mulling over a major investment in technology, conventional wisdom would say that economically disadvantaged schools across the country would need to think twice. Well, think again.
Calcasieu Parish School Board (called a school board but is a district) is the fifth-largest school district in Louisiana, resting in the southwest part of the state. In total, the district serves 29,500 students across 60 elementary, middle and high schools. It is a 100 percent CEP district, which means that every student is eligible for free lunch based on the economic poverty data submitted to the federal government.
However, Calcasieu Parish School Board just equipped its student body with 400 3D printers, most of which came at NO COST to the district. It also is developing a STEM bus with fun technological gadgets to enhance student learning. So how does a district with the odds stacked against it pull that off?
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Calcasieu Parish School Board Federal Programs Director John Spikes and Chief Technology Officer Kim Leblanc have developed a system for providing the type of technology in classrooms that one would only expect at affluent schools. Here are the steps:
- Strategic Learning Plan: Spikes and Leblanc will not introduce technology into the classroom that doesn’t work with the curriculum, confuses teachers or doesn’t improve learning. They examine the curriculum closely and interview curriculum specialists, teachers and students alike, seeking how they can continuously improve student access, but not just for the sake of having more nifty gadgets.
- Strategic Financial Plan: Once the verdict is in on the technology needs, Spikes and his team go to work on using federal dollars to pay for it. In the case of the 3D printers, the district used its allocated funds from the Title I, Part A federal grant program to purchase them. However, there are all sorts of other sources available if you know where to look.
- Provider Partnerships: The district leaders met with Bluum (that’s us!), the leading education technology provider, to see how they could get the best bang for their technology dollar. Based on the curriculum and the strategic plan, Bluum Account Executive Will Stone saw a natural fit for 400 classroom 3D printers to address their needs.
- Professional Development: To ensure that the technology would blend seamlessly into classroom lessons, the district team also earmarked Title IV funds to pay for professional development for the teachers. After the professional development, the teachers are confident they can integrate the technology into their curriculum.
- Consult Your Provider: While every district doesn’t have a Kim Leblanc or John Spikes, they can work with Bluum’s team for technology funding advice, grant writing and strategic advisory planning services – all of which can help you meet all of your education technology needs!