Submitted by Nick Rider, Technology Coordinator, Vanlue Local Schools
Vanlue Local School is providing students and teachers the tools needed to be successful in an ever changing world. The individualized attention that the teachers at Vanlue Local School are able to provide for their students is simply unmatched in other public schools (with a teacher to student ratio at 1/9), and Vanlue School uses this individualized time to provide 21st century education that challenges their students to succeed at their highest potential.
Technology has been a main focus the past three years at Vanlue Local School and many improvements have been made to propel Vanlue to become one of the most technologically advanced school districts in Hancock County and perhaps the state of Ohio. This was accomplished through three major points of emphasis; providing training the teachers need on technology tools, providing technology access that the students need, and bridging the gap between the students, teachers, and the outside world safely and securely.
The first giant leap forward, with regards to technology, was when Vanlue became the only school in Hancock County to implement interactive whiteboards and digital projectors into 100 percent of the classrooms in the district. These tools provide opportunities for teachers to create and use exciting digital lessons to reinforce education, enhance standards-based curriculum and stimulate the learning experience for all students. These technology tools also help to address the needs of students with alternative learning styles, to help them grasp concepts through interactive activities.
Along with providing teachers interactive whiteboards and projectors, a complete wireless internet campus has been installed, and all teacher workstations have been replaced with brand new computers and energy smart power saving LCD monitors. With the new tools and the amazing amount of resources available online to use with these new tools, Vanlue School needed a better connection to the internet to make the most of our technology. So, in stride with their technology advancements, Vanlue upgraded its old T1 Internet connection to a brand new fiber-optic based connection running at 20MBps, which allowed access to the Internet from the school at almost twenty times faster than ever before.
The teachers at Vanlue were then provided professional development to learn how to get the most out of the new technology they had been equipped with. Professional development was accomplished through teachers attending conferences, the technology coordinator answering questions and providing training, an online Moodle course that dealt with the tools provided, an online technology handbook packed full of instructional materials and the Northwest Ohio Educational Technology Organization (NWOET). Vanlue’s teachers had become equipped with the tools and training needed to teach in a 21st century learning environment.
The teacher’s at Vanlue were not the only emphasis where technology advancements were taking place. The main focus was to get the technology to the students, so that they could benefit from it most of all. Vanlue School accomplished this goal by updating and adding student computers as well as creating a new lab and updating two existing labs. All classrooms were equipped with around four thin client computers that could be used at any time throughout the day. Also, a brand new elementary lab was created with twenty four workstations, an interactive whiteboard, digital projector and teacher computer. This enabled all elementary students to have access to an entire computer classroom, which was never possible before. Vanlue School also completely replaced the entire high school computer lab, and updated the digital media lab with the Adobe suite software. This would enable Vanlue’s students to have great access to technology, and provide a means for creating digital content, as well as completing online courses, and post-secondary courses through Owens Community College. This student technology overhaul was completed and the computer to student ratio for the entire Vanlue School District is now at 1/1.2.
Now the teachers and students at Vanlue are equipped, and the third point of emphasis tied it all together by bridging the gap between the students, teachers and the outside world safely and securely. This was accomplished by a number of technological implementations. Vanlue bridged the gap between teachers and students by completely redesigning their website into an online learning environment that would provide 24/7 access to content and resources necessary for success in academics. This would include parent access to an online grade book to stay up to date with their student’s academic performance, through Progressbook. Vanlue School accomplished this task by redesigning the website in Moodle, an online learning environment that provided all of our teachers with their own digital classroom. These online classrooms range from daily information to full blown online courses, which the Physical Education and Health Teacher, Todd Richards, has created to provide support and content to all of his students.
Along with the website redesign Vanlue incorporated Google Apps into the technology tool arsenal and took advantage of providing free email accounts for all of their students who require it for class. They also incorporated Google Apps into the hands of their students and teachers to use in parallel with Moodle to work on, collaborate on, and turn in assignments. Lastly, Google Apps provided Vanlue with an online calendar that their secretary Jodi Cole works hard on to make sure all school information is available through the new district website, which helps keep the community up to date. Vanlue students also keep the community and school up to date with daily video announcements. The student’s record and broadcast daily video announcements to all of the classrooms via digital projector, and the announcements are also available to view on the school website daily.
The next part of Vanlue’s technology emphasis was safety and security. The school accomplished this by installing a control access door system with automated door locks and employee keycards and by incorporating several surveillance cameras to the district. The surveillance cameras are now monitored by the principal and superintendent via 46” LCD monitors installed in their offices. Along with the door system, these measures were put in place to promote security, protect the health and welfare of the students, and provide a factor in maintaining order and discipline.
Vanlue Local School’s technology vision, (to provide technology tools and training that the teachers need, to provide technology access that the students need, and to bridge the gaps between the students, teachers and the outside world safely and securely) had become a reality in only three years of hard work, and has helped propel them into creating a completely engaging 21st century learning environment, with unimaginable individualized teacher support from a public school.
To learn more visit Vanlue Local Schools online at: www.vanlueschool.org