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February 19, 2013
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East Grand School District explores technology needs

GRANBY --The East Grand School District has assembled a committee to investigate best uses of technology in classrooms.

And no classroom anywhere in the country will go unturned, if committee chair Chip Besse, an East Grand Schools board member, has his way.

Besse's goal with the committee is to research schools with proven track records and find out what is working in terms of technological equipment complementing teaching methods.

To do this, he's recruited tech-savvy business people, parents and staff members to join a committee aimed at advancing East Grand's technology - or, if it's deemed not a proven benefit to education, holding off on upgrades until it is, he said.

The committee's goal, he said, is ways "to bring the best available technology to the students in Grand County and use it as a tool to improve education, and to ultimately lower the costs of providing education, and if we're successful, my goal for Grand County is to be on the cutting edge in the state of technology in classrooms."

A three-year $300,000 a-year property-tax education mill levy sunset in 2009 in East Grand. That money helped to raise the level of technology to where it needed to be then, according to East Grand Superintendent Nancy Karas, who started in the superintendent's position in 2008. But as technology goes, the improvements made then are now almost obsolete with advances at light speeds every day.

The computers for labs purchased then are now at least five years old, a long stretch of time in terms of the practical life of a computer.

A 2009 ballot question to reinstate the technology mill levy failed at the polls, and a subsequent $250,000 Sprout Foundation grant to the district two years ago helped to maintain the technology infrastructure throughout the district and upgrade its wireless access.

Now, the district is need of another technology infusion, Karas said, but Besse and his team want to ensure the district does not purchase technology for its sake, rather make wise investments for the future of education.

Besse envisions a combination of taxpayer funds and private funding as a way to fill the district's technology budget gap.

"We need to have the best education in the state," Besse said. "And use that as a tool to raise smart children, bring people and businesses to the county, and ultimately improve property values. It's a great chance for us to step up what we're doing in the county and where we're going in the county."

The committee's findings, he said, may dictate how the district could spend "a significant amount of money for a number of years."

"I think in the past, there's been a disconnect in improving technology and making sure that technology delivers results," Besse said. "Taxpayers are expecting results associated with (upgrades), not just giving everybody some fun new toy to play with."

For example, Besse said he wonders if reading devices, such as iPads or Kindles, may be on East Grand's horizon as a cost-saving measure to replace textbooks. New textbook material could be uploaded at a fraction of the cost.

"The idea of carrying six 300-page textbooks home in backpacks every night, I don't see that in the long-term where technology is already headed," he said.

But the committee's further research on the subject could prove him wrong: "All the tools are great, but unless students are using them, they're useless."

The committee's first formal meeting is March 7.

- Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603


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The Sky-Hi News Updated Feb 19, 2013 07:22PM Published Feb 19, 2013 07:19PM Copyright 2013 The Sky-Hi News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.