Technology Task Force Results and Recommendations

Matt McCarter

By Matt McCarter
Students Come First Director

In January, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna and members of the Technology Task Force presented their recommendations for successfully implementing the technology components of Students Come First.

The Students Come First Technology Task Force worked for seven months, beginning in June 2011, to develop recommendations on how the state and local school districts could implement one-to-one mobile computing devices and digital learning for high school students and classroom technology for all grades.

Idaho's 38-member Technology Task Force brought together a wide range of experienced perspectives on business, technology, and education in Idaho. Members of Idaho's business community, superintendents, principals, current and former educators, charter schools, school boards, parents, community members, legislative bodies, Governor's office, teachers' associations, and educational stakeholder groups worked together to offer guidance for a successful infusion of modern technological tools into Idaho's education system. Twelve educators, including four current classroom teachers served on the Task Force.

The Task Force's wealth of experienced knowledge was further informed by expert guest speakers, research, an informal survey, and site visits to education technology programs in districts and states across the country. In December, the Task Force members unanimously approved 47 recommendations for the State Department of Education to consider and move forward with. Superintendent Luna provided an update to legislators on January 31.

Highlights of their recommendations follow. (See the full list at StudentsComeFirst.org).

One-to-One Mobile Computing Devices
  • The Task Force finds that a laptop is currently the mobile computing device that best serves the needs of Idaho's school children.
  • To ensure compatibility and maximize purchasing power, the subcommittee recommends procuring the same laptop device statewide for both teachers and students.
  • The Task Force recommends a managed service providing not only the one-to-one device but the resources to successfully implement and manage all facets of the technology integration.
  • The Task Force finds that students gain greater utility from their devices, and take better care of them, when they are allowed to personalize the devices and take them home. The Task Force encourages districts to allow students to place personal items on their devices–like music, pictures, and other items that do not hinder network or device functionality–while reminding students that at no time do the devices become the property of students or staff.
  • The Task Force recommends that all schools provide parent trainings multiple times throughout the year, and that schools require a student's parent or guardian to attend a parent training (face-to-face, online, or written) before allowing devices to go home.
  • The Task Force recommends that devices be deployed by district, not by grade level as originally planned. To determine which districts receive the devices in the first, second, and third years of implementation, the Task Force recommends the SDE give preference to those districts most ready to benefit from the devices.
Classroom Technology
  • Classroom technology integration money is distributed according to a formula grant based on an applicant's ADA in the first reporting period. Districts will receive $32 per student for the full year, but the payments are disbursed in two parts–one payment in September, and one in March.
  • The Task Force recommends that more time for professional development (PD) be built into the school calendar through change in Section 33-512(1)(c), Idaho Code to reflect an increase from "up to 22 hours" to "up to 72 hours."
  • This, of course, would also require more funding, and the Task Force recommends the Legislature consider increasing funding for Professional Development. Currently, the state funds $4 million a year for professional development through Students Come First.
  • Additionally, the Task Force recommends the release of a Request for Information (RFI) for professional development and the development of a multi-year plan for professional development.
Online Learning
  • The Task Force recommends that the implementation of fractional ADA for online courses and dual-enrolled students be based on credits earned, as opposed to class periods or minutes of instruction, because credits are uniform, accommodate different schedules, are easy to track and report, and provide the opportunity to incentivize success.
  • The Task Force recommends the State Department of Education work with districts to develop and implement an online portal for parents to register students for online courses. The portal will serve as a one-stop shop where parents and students should be able to find information on each online course, the provider, instructor, quality and performance metrics, and parent and student customer ratings.

Learn more about the Technology Task Force and see the full list of recommendations at StudentsComeFirst.org/technologytaskforce.htm.