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Tech Choices Across the Board

 

A Connecticut school district official draws up his most-wanted list of new technologies and the vendors chosen or under consideration.

Timothy Howes is the assistant superintendent/technology director of the East Windsor School District in Connecticut. The district, situated on the east side of the Connecticut River, has astudent population approaching 1,600, which is spread throughout the town’s three schools.

WISHLIST SHORTLIST
COWs in the classroom
Due to the physical limitations of our classrooms and computer labs, mobile Computers on Wheels, or COWs, would be ideal. Bringing a mobile computer lab to the students would spare the loss of class time and help staff better facilitate technology integration into their curricula. Our goal is to eventually have COWs for every school, starting at the high school level.
Dell
Dell (http://www.dell.com) offers excellent integration solutions and the most competitive pricing for our COWs. Certainly, Dell has a strong reputation in the education market, but we also feel it is a good idea to look at a technology provider you have an existing relationship with because that vendor will often give you the best pricing. Plus, if you’ve worked with a vendor before, you’ll know the reliability of the company and its products.
Interactive whiteboards
The best thing about interactive whiteboards is that they are a great transitional technology for students and teachers who are already accustomed to working in front of the classroom on a chalkboard. Interactive whiteboards are especially helpful for staff members who are not particularly tech-savvy, since they’re not much more difficult to operate than a chalkboard. Plus, they offer the benefit of being able to record and save any work.
Smart Technologies
We felt that the Smart Board interactive whiteboard from Smart Technologies (http://www.smarttech.com) was the product to seriously consider. Smart has a great reputation and the best, most accessible support staff, which, to us, is almost as important as the technology itself. We currently have nine newly acquired Smart Boards in our district (three per school), and would eventually like to have a Smart Board interactive whiteboard in every classroom integrating with other technologies such as laptops.
PDAs
In an effort to provide students with 1-to-1 computing, PDAs aren’t a bad alternative. Their size makes them easy to take from class to class, as well as back and forth between school and home. Other benefits of investing in PDAs over laptops is that their replacement cost is significantly cheaper, and they’re compatible with laptops and desktop computers, which makes the process of transferring information from one to the other a snap.
Dell
Here again, it was a level-of-quality issue: Dell’s PDAs have a reputation for reliability, and that is important to our district. Then too, educational pricing and portability will allow us to explore buying textbooks for PDAs instead of laptops.
Tablet PCs
Tablet PCs are like bigger, better versions of PDAs because their larger screens make it easier to view electronic textbooks and other documents. They also offer full-size keyboard accessibility, which is especially important for younger or less tech-savvy students. Another big benefit: The tablet PC has a standardized operating system, Microsoft Windows, so it can seamlessly integrate with other hardware products.
Toshiba or HP
When we decided to make a major investment in the newer technology of tablet PCs, we felt it was important to go with industry leaders like Toshiba (http://www.toshiba.com) and HP (http://www.hp.com); we knew we’d get the best quality for our dollar. We also believe that, most of the time, when you spend a little more for quality, the hardware lasts longer.
Wireless network
By wirelessly enabling our schools with hotspots, teaching and learning are no longer confined to the classroom. This promotes collaborative learning, as students can work together anywhere and connect wirelessly. And as wireless technology grows more pervasive, the opportunities for collaboration increase. We also know that students acquire knowledge differently, so wireless solutions provide great ways to address both differentiated instruction and learning.
NETGEAR and D-Link
We found that NetGear (http://www.netgear.com) and D-Link (http://www.dlink.com) provide wireless networking products that are competitively priced and extremely reliable. I also feel strongly about exploring the use of these existing vendors for expanding hotspots on a grand scale, as it’s usually easier and more cost-effective to grow with the same company that was used for the district’s foundation.

To submit your own Wishlist/Shortlist, e-mail editorial@thejournal.com.

This article originally appeared in the 11/01/2005 issue of THE Journal.

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