Future Ready in the SDMA

Future Ready in the SDMA
Posted on 06/16/2016

This week a team of school district leaders traveled to Madison for the regional Future Ready Schools Leadership Summit. While the School District of the Menomonie Area (SDMA) is well known as a progressive school district in our area, there is more that we can do to provide our children with a 21st Century learning experience.

According to information provided by the Alliance for Excellent Education in Washington, DC, the Future Ready Schools (FRS) project is a collaborative effort with the U.S. Department of Education meant to “help school districts develop comprehensive plans to achieve successful student learning outcomes by (1) transforming instructional pedagogy and practice while (2) simultaneously leveraging technology to personalize the classroom.” This free conference included online tools for helping district leadership teams make systematic plans for effectively using technology to engage students, empower teachers, and improve learning outcomes.

Currently, the School District of the Menomonie Area spends a little over $100 per student each year on technology services and devices, providing our school district with a very strong infrastructure for technology. Considering what many households in Menomonie spend on various technology services and devices, district taxpayers should be very satisfied with the value that our school district realizes in this area. With this year’s improvements at Knapp Elementary School, all of our schools now enjoy high-speed network connections that provide our students and staff with an abundance of bandwidth for the many digital learning and communication tools being used in our schools. 

In addition to a robust wireless network, our school district supports over 3,000 computers, iPads, Chromebooks, and laptop devices. Nearly all of our classrooms have LCD projectors and SmartBoards, and we have copy, print, phone and fax systems that leverage technologies to maximize effectiveness and efficiency. The SDMA has improved the school district website, and there are many examples of how our staff members are effectively utilizing digital tools, such as various Google Apps, YouTube, and Twitter to communicate, engage students, and improve learning, instruction, and assessment. 

District leaders are now well into the planning process for improving our capacity for digital learning through a one-to-one computer initiative that will provide a device to each student in grades 6-12 starting in the 2017-2018 school year. While there is more work that the school district will need to do to prepare for this initiative, this vision is set to become a reality. 

It is pretty clear that having a solid technology infrastructure and high tech devices alone will not have much of an impact on student learning. It is how our staff utilizes technology to personalize instruction and engage students that will make the difference. Over the past few years, our school district has provided many personalized professional development opportunities for our staff, and our teachers in Menomonie have been fortunate to learn from some of the best minds in the world in the areas of professional learning communities (PLCs), differentiated instruction, and student engagement.  This coming year, in addition to hosting the summer Western Wisconsin EdTech Summit, our school district will also be bringing in a well-known expert, George Couros, presenter of the TedTalk #OurVoice and author of The Innovator’s Mindset.  Couros will spend a day working with our staff as we continue to make our school district “Future Ready”.

Should school stakeholders have any questions about technology in the SDMA or what our school district is doing to become “Future Ready”, I invite you to visit the Administrative Service Center on Pine Avenue or contact me at 715-232-1642. More information about our schools can be found on the school district website (www.sdmaonline.com) and on Twitter (www.twitter.com/sdmaonline).