2014-04-11 / Community

District scores high on tech survey

By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — Regional School Unit 21 has placed third out of 10 other small districts across the nation in the Digital School Districts Survey by the Center for Digital Education for its use of informational technology in the classroom.

The award marks the third consecutive year RSU 21 has placed in the top 10. RSU 21 is the only district in Maine to receive the honor.

The survey, according to the Center for Digital Education’s website, “showcases exemplary school boards’ and districts’ use of technology to govern the district, communicate with students, parents and the community, and improve district operations.”

This year’s awards were given particularly to districts for “their expanding use of innovative technologies district-wide as well as in the classroom.”

Other districts that placed include Springfield Public Schools in New Jersey, Hanson School District in South Dakota and Carroll County School District in Kentucky.

“It makes me feel good,” said Jamie Jensen, director of IT services for the district. I think it reflects the good work we do and tying to keep the public informed, like through our website. It shows that we are informed and trying to push forward in this digital age.”

“In my estimation,” said Jensen, “we exhibit strengths in each of the categories described by the following post from the Center for Digital Education website: ‘Conducted in partnership with the National School Boards Association, the Digital School Districts Survey examines how information technology is applied to improve service delivery and quality of education to public schools. All U.S. school districts are invited to participate,’” Jensen said.

“Now that we’re aware of what the best practices are, we do try to meet those requirements,” Jensen said.

There are three pools of qualification, depending on the size of the district. A district with between 3,000 and 12,000 students qualifies for mid-sized, and a district with more than 12,000 is large. RSU 21 qualified in the nationwide small school district pool because it has fewer than 3,000 students.

In continuing with the trend of furthering the use of informational technology for students and parents in the district, the school board discussed the adoption of Google Apps for education at Monday’s meeting.

Teachers have been using Google Apps for three years, Jensen said. The introduction of Google Apps for students will begin when Google Chrome books are issued at the beginning of next school year.

“It provides an opportunity for using Google products under the rsu21.net umbrella,” Jensen said. “It’s basically like a Google account, but controlled by the district.”

“It would allow students to interact and collaborate with one another and publish their content on Google Docs,” Dolloff said at the school board meeting.

Parents will have to sign a consent form giving their student(s) permission to use Google Apps.

School board member Matt Fadiman asked, “If a parent opts out and won’t sign it, can a student fully participate in the curriculum?”

“Yes, it doesn’t take anything away from the curriculum they’re receiving in the classroom,” Jensen said.

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