Working in the Santa Monica-Malibu school district for more than 30 years, Ruthy Mangle has witnessed dramatic changes in the role of technology in education.
Still, the information services director sounded genuinely awed by the improvements rolling out with money from Measure ES.
“I didn’t think I’d live to see this day,” she told the Board of Education during a Feb. 18 presentation about upgrades in the district. “For me to stand here and tell you … that we are 85-percent complete with wireless access points in every classroom, that is really exciting. Wherever you are on campus, you can connect.”
Wireless access to the Internet is among numerous technological enhancements being funded by Measure ES, a $385-million bond for schools that voters approved in 2012. The school board previously allocated about $34 million for a round of tech upgrades.
The district is putting in new network switches and routers, an initiative that is 85-percent finished. SMMUSD is also improving its telephone system and moving forward on a new data center.
“I didn’t think it was going to be in my lifetime,” Mangle said. “Unless I expire before August, I think I’m going to see it.”
The district has been creating what it calls “21st-century classrooms,” and the upgrades are reportedly complete at Santa Monica and Olympic high schools as well as McKinley, Grant, Cabrillo, Webster and Point Dume elementary schools. Improvements at the other nine campuses are ongoing and on target to be finished by the end of the school year.
The renovated classrooms include interactive whiteboards, a dual projection screen, a document camera, an audio system with teacher and student microphones and a teacher laptop.
Computer labs across the district are also getting attention. The computers in some labs at Lincoln and John Adams middle schools and Santa Monica, Olympic and Malibu high schools will be replaced, according to a district report, and a lab at each elementary site will receive new hardware as well. The initiative includes the installation of nearly 500 new computers, officials said.
Changes are also impacting SMMUSD libraries, which have installed new software as well as new handheld scanners, iPad Mini devices and circulation desktop computers. To accompany the upgrades, training sessions have been planned for librarians and library coordinators.
Additional improvements are expected in the coming summer and fall, including more audio and visual technology and research devices like student computers and electronic readers.
The installation of new technology requires more professional development for teachers, officials said.
“I know how it is,” said Terry Deloria, assistant superintendent for educational services. “You get some newer device and you get the training and then you go back to your classroom and you can’t remember how to do it. … It isn’t just about the toys. It’s about how you enhance instruction and engage students. We know we need to do more training.”
PTA Council president Rochelle Fanali said parents are happy about the upgrades but added that she hopes to see more training for teachers.
“Having them get excited about the technology will make a world of difference,” she said.
Fanali also said parents are concerned about digital citizenship, which encompasses cyberbullying, privacy and other issues.
Board member Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein advocated for a broader discussion about how teachers are using technology in their classrooms.
“I’m not confident we’re at that place [of digital literacy],” he said.