How to Find Success By Networking with 21st-Century Learning

Three years ago, the Chelmsford Public School District (CPSD) in Massachusetts was ready to step up to a 21st century learning environment, but its network was stuck in a previous era.

By 2013, however, the district technology team had replaced the slow, aging network with an Extreme Networks wired and wireless infrastructure that now supports a bring-your-own-device program along with cloud technology, virtualization and digital curriculum initiatives, says Anne-Marie Fiore, executive director of technology and information services.

“We’ve done a lot of work on the network because it’s crucial to providing what our students need,” says Fiore, whose district is located 25 miles northwest of Boston.

Having made substantial progress on the new network, CPSD launched a districtwide BYOD program in 2012, augmenting student-owned devices with 900 tablets distributed on carts among its eight schools. The network upgrade has also been crucial to implementing the Universal Design for Learning (UDL), a project that retrofits older classrooms with modern technology, such as tablets, digital media players, interactive whiteboards and document cameras, Fiore says. UDL is a high priority, she notes, given that the newest Chelmsford public school was built in 1975.

“You have to have the network to support the learning technology we’re putting in the classrooms,” she says.

CPSD has adopted cloud-based Microsoft Office 365 for messaging and productivity. Besides offering increased access to tools for students and staff, Office 365 relieves pressure on the network and on the IT staff, says Network Administrator Matthew Hall.

To bolster security for the BYOD program, CPSD segmented its network.

“We don’t allow student devices on the internal network,” says Hall. “We’ve set up a separate virtual local area network for them.”

The district has adopted a mobile device management platform that will allow the IT team to monitor hardware and software on the network, and ease the rollout of new applications, says Hall. Application monitoring tools help complete the network environment, he says.

The upgraded network is complemented by a dedicated fiber link that connects the schools, which was established as part of a unified technology plan between the CPSD and the town, says Fiore. The district also changed its Internet provider to get more high-speed broadband to the schools. The infrastructure now in place puts the district on firm footing for future technologies, says Fiore.

Just ahead, the IT staff will finish up some long-term projects, such as UDL and a Voice over IP phone system that was enabled by the Power over Ethernet switches on the new network, says Fiore. She is also exploring a video distribution system for Chelmsford’s classrooms.

“The community is very supportive of technology and technology education,” Fiore says. “We have classes in topics like robotics, automation and programming from early on. We have first and second graders who are learning to program. The community knows we need technology to teach technology.”

Tommy Peterson is a freelance journalist who specializes in business and technology and is a frequent contributor to the CDW family of technology magazines.

Chelmsford Superintendent Frank Tiano Selected for National Connected Superintendents Summit Wednesday at White House

LOCAL NEWS RELEASE

Contact: U.S. Education Department Press Office
(202) 401-1576 or press@ed.gov

Chelmsford Superintendent Frank Tiano Selected for National Connected Superintendents Summit Wednesday at White House

Dr. Frank Tiano, Superintendent of the Chelmsford Public Schools, has been selected by the U.S. Department of Education as one of 100 top school leaders from across America to participate in the first-ever National Connected Superintendents Summit Wednesday, Nov. 19 at the White House.

Superintendent Tiano is among exemplary local school chiefs who will be recognized for their leadership in helping transition their districts to digital learning. This unique conference will bring together officials from throughout America to share with one other and the Education Department promising approaches to using technology in classes.

“School districts across the country are helping teachers harness the power of technology to create personal learning environments for all students,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “We want to make sure every child – whether he or she is in the inner-city, in a rural community or on a Native American reservation – has access to knowledge and the chance to learn 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

The White House summit will be followed by a series of 12-15 regional summits that will focus on the digital progress both made and possible by local school districts. The events will also include the unveiling of digital tools that facilitate incorporation of technology into short-term and long-range education planning.

To help spotlight the value of technology in schools, the Education Department is sponsoring a Future Ready Initiative aimed at showcasing outstanding school leadership and strategies.

“The Future Ready Initiative highlights the critical role of district leaders in setting a vision and creating the environment where educators and students access the tools, content, and expertise necessary for thriving in a connected world,” said Richard Culatta, director of the Department’s Office of Educational Technology.

Future Ready superintendents demonstrate effective use of technology in some of the following ways:

· Fostering and leading a culture of collaboration and digital citizenship;

· Transitioning schools and families to high-speed connectivity;

· Empowering educators with professional learning opportunities;

· Accelerating progress toward universal access to quality devices;

· Providing access to quality digital content;

· Creating access, equity, and excellence – particularly in rural, remote, and low-income districts;

· Offering digital tools to students and families to help them prepare for success in college;

· Sharing best practices and mentoring other districts in the transition to digital learning.

“Technology has the potential to transform education in America, allowing students to learn more, to do so at their own pace, and to develop the knowledge and skills employers demand,” Culatta said. “And yet, fewer than 30 percent of classrooms have the broadband internet to support today’s education technology needs.”

In June 2013, President Obama announced the ConnectED Initiative, starting with a goal of connecting 99 percent of students to next-generation connectivity within five years. Model schools and districts across the country are using technology to create personalized learning environments; technology will play an increasingly crucial role in the future.

My Superintendent Frank Tiano went to the Future Ready Summit at the White House….

and all I got was this sign. 😉

Seriously, the technology department was proud to be recognized as a model school district at the White House. 100 school districts were chosen from across the nation, and we were one of them. All of this could not have happened without the leadership of Dr. Frank Tiano, our Superintendent. Dr. Frank Tiano is a true leader in the area of technology.

We won the Extreme Network Award which was a recognition of our ability to provide personalized instruction to students. Chelmsford was one of four districts chosen in North America. Additionally, we have been included in articles including being a featured school district in Ed Tech Magazine. We have undergone technology reform in the areas of 21st Century Classrooms, Wireless Connectivity, VOIP Phones, and Virtualization of the School Network, as well as school security, including surveillance cameras and keyless entry. We have invigorated the Chelmsford Telemedia Educational Channel with the creation of several regularly aired television shows highlighting district work.

The technology and information staff needs to be recognized, as well. Without them, none of this good work could have happened. If you would like to read more about us, please visit our website at http://www.chelmsford.k12.ma.us/chelmstech

At the core of all instruction is our ability to provide access to quality digital content for all staff and students. #futureready

We are future ready in Chelmsford! 

Anne-Marie Fiore, Executive Director