In Kentucky schools continue to play an increasingly important role to the community. In an area where some students rely on the school system for their only two meals of the day, it is important to see that education is not the only focus for School Districts. The school system is also often one of the largest employers in counties throughout Eastern Kentucky, thereby having an effective influence on its surrounding community. This means school districts have many daily challenges to deal with apart from education.
Technology and Challenges
When I left Kentucky in 2010, the state had been continuing to aggressively push new technologies in an effort to help students help themselves. Interactive smart boards, and student netbooks filled the classrooms. Thanks to the crumbling economy at the time, many school districts had the opportunity to grab a hold of grants they never could have had in the past. Good news right? But when you look at the numbers, statistics, and percentages that bring a school district to be eligible for many of these grants it was simply frightening to see the amount of poverty that existed.
Our two person team was responsible for every aspect of our IT infrastructure. From maintenance of over a dozen servers, four hundred workstations and a thousand user accounts across three buildings, to physical cabling, personnel training, and equipment procurement.
As much work as this already was, a cultural challenge also existed. Parents could and would ask to remove their children from all network access, to which we legally had to comply with. Can you imagine the disadvantage this would create? To function and work in the modern world contact with technology is inevitable. We did our best to create a network that was safe for students meeting and exceed CIPA standards. The biggest issue was a general fear of technology that we had to overcome.
The state of Kentucky began to implement online learning services, there was a clear push for the integrated use of technology in the teaching curriculum. This was a step in the right direction, although at the time it would be difficult to implement outside of the school day as a good portion of students still did not have Internet access at home (If I recall, nearly 30% in 2010). The unpredictability of existing connections and electricity in rural areas further complicated the issue (with outages that could last up to a week during the winter).
If you do a little research you’ll find that in the last five years there has been improvement, yet many of the challenges remain the same.