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Milton Schools make technology purchases with $150k in donated funds

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  December 5, 2013 03:46 PM

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Milton Public Schools will receive hundreds of tablet devices to bolster student learning as the latest part of a multiyear initiative to bring new technology into the classroom.

Between all six schools, students will receive approximately 260 Chromebooks, 160 iPads, 60 Kindle Fire HD devices, and 12 Apple TVs, all donated through over $150,000 from the Milton Foundation for Education.

"We’ve come up with a menu of devices that each serve different functions in a classrooms at different levels that supports students being engaged in classroom activities and enhances learning,” said John Phelan, assistant superintendent in charge of curriculum.

Milton Public Schools have been on the track toward high-tech education since 2011, when iPads were donated to Glover and Collicot Elementary Schools. By 2012, Tucker Elementary School had won a federal grant for high MCAS scores, and used the money to buy 30 iPads.

Cunningham Elementary School had also purchased a dozen Kindle Fires and received five iPads as gifts from the fifth grade class of 2012.

The schools subsequently began a more thorough investment into technology, requesting hundreds of thousands of dollars from the town for desktop computers and so-called smart boards in every classroom.

Milton Foundation for Education and the Copeland Foundation additionally agreed to jointly raise funds for wireless capabilities in each of Milton’s schools.

The most recent purchases, approved by the Milton Foundation for Education two weeks ago, represent a methodical commitment to technology, Phelan said, and will work as a pilot program to assure that these devices can be readily used in the classroom along with different curricula.

Each school has received a variety of devices, numbers dependent on the size of the school.

“There’s a lot of applications and students will be using these in their hands, which is different from districts buying devices that teachers use,” Phelan said. “We want children to research, collaborate, write, investigate and engage in the technology to enhance the curriculum, not watch the teacher do it.”

Staffing has been organized to support the programs, and future capital requests have been made for more infrastructure and hub computer needs.

With existing devices, students have already begun to explore, Phelan said, Fifth graders are using Google Docs to collaborate on writing pieces without even being in the same room, and others are using Chromebooks for research.

To watch a video of the devices in action, click here.

Don Greene, member of the Milton Foundation for Education, said plans are already in place to donate the 2014 annual fund-raiser proceeds to even more technology advances.

Feedback from teachers will better direct which devices to buy and how to implement them, Greene said.

“We know what they are tracking to see what results they will have. We will do an evaluation and purchase more equipment in scale,” Greene said.

Phelan’s initial plan on how to use the first round of donated money was widely accepted by the Foundation, and Greene sounded optimistic that the synergy will continue.

The biggest aspect to note about the program, Greene said, is that the private funding is only meant to advance Milton’s technology needs and prove there is a way to fund it, not to replace public funding for the schools.

“Money is meant to be catalytic to help schools get there quicker,” Greene said.

Yet with the Foundation’s aid, change is happening, and by implementing the technology in phases, Phelan said it allows the schools to be adaptive to new technologies.

Running a pilot also allows the schools to fully understand where and how devices will be used.

“The need to have a device in every classroom’s hand isn’t practical in general and it’s not what the curriculum is ready for. Our goal is to get classrooms fully equipped,” Greene said, with a goal of having at least 1,000 devices available to the schools’ 4,000 students over the next few years.

“Over time, it may grow and change,” Greene said.

To see more about the long-term investment plans in education, click here.

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