When Medford students go back to school on Sept. 5, they will find brand new computers, printers and projectors in their classrooms, thanks to a $3.3 million technology bond package passed earlier this year.
“The technology is really a great leap into the next century for us,” said Superintendent of Schools Roy E. Belson. “The ability to access information, decipher good sources from bad sources… the more hands-on experience we can give students, the more likely they are to succeed in the 21st century.”
The $3.3 million technology plan supplied new computers for each class, over 500 new printers, 277 LCD projectors, 204 library computers, 24 computer labs, 12 wireless computer carts with 30 devices each and upgrades to provide wireless Internet for student-owned devices.
Before this year, teachers and students could not share files between computers at Medford High School or access the Internet outside the library.
“The high school was not on the domain before,” said Allen Arena, network administrator for the schools. “The new network will support thousands of devices.”
To start, the network will support 2,100 new computer units purchased as part of the bond package.
Employees from GovConnection were at MHS in late August, poking their heads through ceilings as they installed infrastructure for the school’s new network.
Richard Trotta, director of technology, media and fine arts, said he was impressed with the amount of work accomplished in the few short weeks before school starts.
“I don’t think you can find a district in Eastern Massachusetts that did this much work in six weeks,” said Trotta, adding the schools just started the physical work in late July.
Several four-year-old computers from Medford High School were refurbished and went to replace even older computers for the school’s administrative staff. Belson said the schools had to get creative with saving money by repurposing the older workstations.
Although the city could not afford new smart boards for classrooms, Trotta said each class will be supplied with an iPad, which students can use to interact with the classroom’s LCD projector.
“A student can do a math problem at their desk, and it shows up on the projector,” Trotta said.
New technology will also benefit the school’s special education and English Language Learners (ELL) programs.
Belson said new devices will allow students who have trouble speaking to type their answers into a computer. He added linking words with pictures is also a helpful tool for students trying to learn English.
The superintendent added that a section of the new teacher evaluation survey considers the variety of instructional techniques employed by instructors so teachers will be judged in some way on how they use the tools available to them.
The school district is organizing a series of professional development seminars to help teachers learn the new tools this fall. Training sessions will teach instructors how to use Microsoft Office, Google tools, data management software and information-sharing platforms like Moodle.
Belson said most teachers at Medford Public Schools are from a younger generation that embraces technology. For those less comfortable with technology, however, Belson suggested learning new tools could help them better relate to students and become better teachers for it.
“To be an effective teacher, you have to be an active learner,” said Belson. “You get a new appreciation for learning when you actually have to learn something yourself.”