We’ll See You In St. Louis: Edtech Initiatives and Tools from 10 St....

column | Blended Learning

We’ll See You In St. Louis: Edtech Initiatives and Tools from 10 St. Louis Districts

By Mary Jo Madda (Columnist)     Oct 9, 2014

We’ll See You In St. Louis: Edtech Initiatives and Tools from 10 St. Louis Districts

When we say, “Meet me in St. Louis,” we’re not just quoting Judy Garland--we really mean it!

In less than a week, the EdSurge team will be heading to the middle of the country to meet up with hundreds of educators and administrators for the St. Louis Tech for Schools Summit. Honest edtech conversations about everything from software to procurement, insights from Gates Foundation officer, Henry Hipps, and Google evangelist Jaime Casap, and raffles of mobile device are just a few of the treats for attendees. Will you be one of them?

St. Louis is an incredibly large, diverse and active edtech scene with districts that are carrying out initiatives that include moving all curriculum online to creating schools of experiential learning to installing district-wide area fiber and enterprise wireless internet.

When you pass through the magical St. Louis Arch, all those initiatives can be striking--and overwhelming! So, we’ve created an “edtech cheatsheet” of sorts, touching on ten STL districts and their respective technological stats. Here we go!

Affton School District

(In St. Louis, MO; 2,376 Students)

  • 1-1 Chromebook: Beginning in fall 2014, all students at Affton High School will have a Dell Chromebook. This initiative was approved by the School Board in February after a series of classroom pilots and hardware test-drives. Teachers were trained in spring 2014 and students picked up their laptops during summer 2014. While the High Schools are predominantly using Chromebooks, the district plans to retain a device agnostic strategy across all grades.
  • Personalizing the Philosophy: The district is shifting pedagogy towards a greater focus on personalized learning. The district’s approach to personalized learning emphasizes that students showcasing their learning through technology in a variety of ways.

Ferguson-Florissant School District

(In Florissant, MO; 11,601 Students)

  • Pathways for Teachers: This career-readiness initiative is a part of Pathways for Prosperity from Education Plus. Community-based business leaders in the fields of science, engineering, technology and math are partnering with a cohort of teachers. The teachers participate in "externships" and STEM trainings to learn more about the future skills students will need for careers in these industries.
  • Blinded With Data Science: The district has a small group of data scientists, which it calls its “research group.” The research group pulls together data reports on a regular basis and makes them available to teachers and principals to show trends in student achievement. They look at correlations of assessment data, demographics and grades. This same team built their own data warehouse used to store and track all of this data.

School District of Clayton

(In Clayton, MO; 2,587 Students)

  • Keep it in the Cloud: Over the past several years the IT team has been getting its house in order. As the district gets infrastructure in place, the next step will be to shift to cloud computing web-based applications. District leaders hope this will give everyone universal access to content, regardless of the machine they use or the location they are learning from.
  • Training & Tools: The district adopted the International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE) National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers (NETS*T) in 2008. These standards outline how teachers should use technology in their classrooms.

Jennings School District

(In Jennings, MO; 2,537 Students)

  • Mobile Carts: Additionally, every school has at least two carts with 24 laptop computers each. Both middle schools and the high school have two mobile carts with 30 Chromebooks each; schools with 4th-6th grades also have a mobile cart with 30 Chromebooks.
  • SMART Tech: According to the tech team, 90% of classrooms have a SMARTBoard and projector. In addition, each school has at least two sets of SMART Responders (clickers). Each building has at least two SMART document cameras.

Maplewood Richmond Heights School District

(In Maplewood, MO; 1,203 Students)

  • 1:1 Laptops: Maplewood Richmond Heights has a rich history of using 1:1 laptops. In 2006, all of the students at MRH Middle School received laptops through the eMints grant. In 2007, each student at MRH High School received a laptop through “Project Headware.” As of 2014, all students in fifth to 12th grade have a laptop, and all but seventh and eigth graders use Mac laptops. Seventh and eighth graders use Chromebooks instead. Students in seventh to 12th grade have the privilege of taking their devices home and keeping their laptops once they graduate. Younger grades have Mac desktop stations in their classrooms.

Parkway School District

(In Chesterfield, MO; 17,148 Students)

  • BYOD: In 2013, Parkway expanded its bring-your-own-device initiative to include all grade levels. Students are encouraged to bring their own laptops, tablets (iPads, eReaders etc.) and smart phones to school. The district also supplements the program with 13,000 of its own primarily Windows-based devices. Currently, students are not able to take any of the district devices home with them, but administrators are hoping to develop a checkout system in the near future.
  • E-Texts: For middle school science and social studies, the district has thrown out the paper textbooks and gone digital. For science, students use Discovery Education’s digital textbook. For social studies, they use both Discovery Education and McGraw Hill. In these classrooms, there are eight Chromebooks to support the textbooks, along with any additional devices students choose to bring

Pattonville School District

(In St. Ann, MO; 5,650 Students)

  • iLearn: In 2011 the district began planting the seeds for its iLearn program which has become the foundation for technology initiatives in the district. It started with a 1:1 pilot in two of the high school classrooms, comparing laptops and iPads in each classroom. A few months later it settled on laptops as the device winner and began planting the seeds for its iLearn program. iLearn has four different initiatives: a professional development strategy for teachers, a robust learning management system, devices and a centralized technology support system.

Ritenour School District

(In St. Louis; 6,369 Students)

  • Upgrade This: $4.2 million of the Proposition K funds went to improving the district’s infrastructure, hardware and software. In addition to classroom computers and Wifi upgrades, classrooms across the district got projectors, speakers, document cameras and more.
  • SOS For an SIS: The district has been on the hunt for a new Student Information System (SIS). Over the past year they have been running two different SIS tools congruently to test out which is the best fit for the district, Tyler or eSchoolPlus Home Access Center. The district plans to move from eSchools to Tyler by June 2015 due to Tyler’s alignment with state reporting and its robust data system.

St. Louis Public Schools

(In St. Louis, MO; 22,831 Students)

  • iPads: The district began rolling out iPads in third and fourth grade classrooms in 2013, thanks to a $1 million three-year fund. So far the district has rolled out about 4,000 iPads in about 98 third grade classrooms and 136 fourth grade classrooms. The district is supporting teachers with ongoing professional development and access to district approved applications. The goal is that iPads are integrated into 80% of the learning experience.
  • Infrastructure: The IT department has prioritized updating phone service, internet access, internet connectivity and cabling in 2014. Some of this work has been started but more is needed to reach completion.

Webster Groves School District

(In Webster Groves, MO; 4,406 Students)

  • Computer School: Integrating technology has been a long-time priority for this district. In 1983, the district established Webster Groves Elementary Computer School as a magnet school focused on integrating technology in all disciplines. The Computer School’s admissions is lottery-based. In the past the school has been used to pilot software programs for the district. Currently, the school boasts a 1:1 Chromebook initiative and has become the instructional model on which the other schools in the district are now based.
  • Experience Learning: The district’s Chelsea Center for Experiential Learning has become a hub where students can go to get connected with learning opportunities outside the classroom. For instance, staff at the center will connect students with businesses in the community for internship opportunities or projects that get them learning outside of the classroom. Eventually, the district hopes to expand this program into more of its mainstream classrooms.
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