Chelmsford students enter ‘gateway to technology’

Chelmsford students enter ‘gateway to technology’

Jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are estimated to increase 17 percent by 2018- close to double the growth of non-STEM fields, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

In four years, the nation is project to have over 1.2 million unfilled STEM jobs. Helping to address this economic reality is Project Lead The Way (PLTW), a leading provider of STEM programs in the country, which has made its way into Chelmsford’s Parker and McCarthy middle schools. The program familiarizes students with engineering, robotics and computer modeling.

“The PLTW program has a middle school component called ‘Gateway to Technology,’ which consists of several separate courses designed especially to appeal to middle school students while employing the technology, math and science standards. PLTW uses technology to introduce students to engineering and other STEM careers,” said Chelmsford Public Schools Technology Engineering Department Coordinator Dr. Marilyn Sweeney, who attended the STEM summit three years ago, where she heard about the non-profit PLTW program.

“It is opening up career pathways that students have traditionally not seen in K-12 schools.”

Working to develop students’ skills needed to succeed in a global market, PLTW delivers programs to over 5,000 elementary, middle, and high schools across the country.

CPS Executive Director of Technology Anne-Marie Fiore had been involved in PLTW in a district she worked in previously. Both she and Sweeney worked collaboratively to alter the CPS’s Tech Ed program into Tech Engineering and bring the program up to 21st century educational topics. The pair hired two new teachers, Kevin McFarland for Parker Middle School and Arthur Tunnessen for McCarthy Middle School, who were sent for a full week of training at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) to learn the Design and Modeling course.

District IT leaders share the stories behind their efforts to build a network that won’t impede or compromise instruction.

Improved Security and Network Capacity Prove Essential in One-to-One Rollouts

District IT leaders share the stories behind their efforts to build a network that won’t impede or compromise instruction.

Steve Zurier
posted April 3, 2014 | Appears in the Spring 2014 issue of EdTech Magazine.

It’s clear that students can’t create content and freely leverage online resources to do research, collaborate and complete assignments — the hallmarks of modern teaching and learning — without the proper technology in place.

Anne-Marie Fiore, executive director of technology and information services for Chelmsford Public Schools in Massachusetts, says her district has a “mixed environment” — one in which teachers can participate in the one-to-one program (IT leaders have distributed 700 tablets districtwide) or let students bring their own devices. “Especially in the middle schools and high schools, teachers have made a commitment to use the tablets,” she says. “But students certainly have the option of bringing their own devices.”

The IT staff supports the district’s 5,200 students and 850 staff across nine buildings with Enterasys switches and wireless access points. The switches were installed in 2008, the wireless equipment in 2011. The district also uses Sophos anti-virus and other products to secure the network.

Now that it has a more secure infrastructure in place, the district can more easily support the online assessments issued by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers for students in grades three through 11. “We have options now, and not everyone has to take the tests on desktops,” Fiore explains.

The fortified infrastructure also makes it easier for Chelmsford to deliver on its core mission. “Our job is to provide teachers and students with the technology tools they need,” Fiore adds. “The tablets are used widely in the English language arts, and the business department uses the tablets in every period so students can check Bloomberg reports and stock information.”