School District Takes Step Toward Technology Plan
Upper Moreland’s superintendent gave an update on the proposed technology plan that may one day have all UMHS students working from laptops in school.
At the April 3 Upper Moreland School Board Programs and Services Committee meeting, superintendent of schools Dr. Robert Milrod shared an idea to put Upper Moreland High School (UMHS) on the path to a 21-centuray learning enviornment.
As reported in a previous article, Milrod presented the possibility of having every student use a laptop for their coursework throughout the day, as well as for homework at night.
He again brought up the subject of technology at the high school at this month’s committee meeting.
“We have come to the committee now on a couple of occasions to talk about a proposal that will attempt to make a transition at the high school to a wireless environment,” Milrod told the committee. “Rather than read from a textbook or work from a chalkboard, students would literally bring their laptops to school every day.”
In a recent 100-percent participation survey of the district’s sixth-ninth-grade students (over 860 students), the school district found that a majority of the students already live in a technology-based environment:
- 98-percent of students have at least one computer in the home
- 97-percent of students have internet access at home
- 50-percent of students own a personal laptop
In the original technology plan, Milrod said that UMHS students would be required to purchase their own laptop to participate, with loaner laptops given for disadvantaged students. However, Milrod found that the district cannot make such a requirement, as it would be a part of the students’ basic education.
Instead, the district would look into making bulk purchases of certain laptops that every student would uniformly use in school, and lease those out to students that cannot purchase one on their own. He also said that the district would reach out to partner with certain community areas with computer access, such as the Upper Moreland Free Public Library.
He estimated that the bulk purchases will cost approximately $39,000 – $79,000, depending on the number of students in need of a district-leased computer. The estimated cost for an individual school-district preferred computer would be $900.
With the price in mind, committee chair Dan Barber asked if other wireless devices could be used, such as a student’s mobile device. Ian Carter, school district coordinator of technology, responded that devices, such as cell phones, are more “content consumers,” as opposed to laptops, which are both content consumers and a “content creation device.”
Milrod said that this technology plan would help ensure students to be maximally prepared for college, and that the long-term plan would first require the installation of wireless access in the high school.
According to Milrod, the majority of the bulk purchases and wireless installation could be paid through the school district’s “one-time use” bonds.
According Carter, the whole installation and configuration of the wireless network will cost approximately $131,000. The largest portion of the costs would go toward the wireless network’s infrastructure, placed at approximately $88,000.
Also, answering the question of a parent in attendance at the meeting, Carter said that the wireless network would help ensure student classroom responsibility by prohibiting certain websites, such as Facebook.
According to Michael Braun, school district business director, UMHS could go wireless as early next school year. He said, should the school board approve the plan to adopt a wireless installment at UMHS, it would take three weeks to put out contractor bids. After further discussion at the committee levels, the full board would have to hold a special action meeting in July for final approval a contractor bid to install the wireless network.
According to Milrod, the long-term technology plan would first be implemented with incoming ninth-grade students, when prior installation and analytical steps have been completed.
The UMHS technology plan is expected to be again discussed at the next Budget and Finance committee meeting.