Most high schools have a principal and a chief custodian, but not New Richmond High School. The newly built secondary school in New Richmond, Wisconsin, has a director of technology and two LAN technicians and with more than 1,000 desktop computers and 100-plus laptops, 13 student/teacher computer labs, a dozen Novell servers, 100 mbps LAN, 65 interactive classrooms with smart boards and 27 Canon digital cameras/camcorders, those three staff members have their hands full.
All of that technology has been in place for 18 months, and New Richmond principal Jeff Moberg says that so far the experience has been a good one. The smooth transition has been the result of a methodical research process of the various technology systems before that began long before the project broke ground.
Teachers from various departments within the school headed committees that examined products that would be appropriate for their classrooms. They researched the experiences of other schools and attended manufacturers’ seminars and vendor presentations, then shared their findings with a central committee headed by Moberg. That work was all completed before the integrator, Alpha Video, was chosen through a bid process.
“Having all your teachers and administrators on board as you research was critical,” Moberg says.
Considering that virtually all of the systems were installed simultaneously and were ready for use at the beginning of the 2010 school year, their implementation went remarkably smoothly. Moberg says that teachers took to the classroom systems such as whiteboards and projection systems quickly after some basic training over the preceding summer.
But the end-to-end HD digital television production studio, facility-wide CastNET digital signage system and VBrick H.264-codec video capture system that were also installed took longer to acclimate to.
“The video technology, such as video capture and switching, has taken a bit longer to get up to speed on, especially as we get deeper into what the technology can do,” says Moberg.
Staff training was provided by a combination of vendors and the integrator – staff training was a critical part of the RFP – as well as some self-directed learning. Moberg says he’d recommend as much training as possible to others starting down this road.
“I’d also strongly recommend that they understand what it takes to support the level of technology you’re going to be working with and what the long-term costs of that will be,” he says.
While all the equipment was installed in a single phase, New Richmond continues to work with Alpha Video on tweaks to the systems’ graphical user interfaces (GUI), to address what he says has been some confusion resulting from multiple users on various systems. The solution, he says, is to take the time to discover how teachers will actually be using shared systems, and then have the integrator do additional programming to reconfigure the systems’ interfaces to reflect those patterns of use.
The end result of this massive influx of technology into the classroom for teachers previously unaccustomed to it is that it has transformed the staff’s attitude towards technology, Moberg says. And the results have been so positive that the school has have extended digital signage and HD video capability to four elementary schools and a middle school in its jurisdiction.
With all technology installs, the willingness of staff members to adjust to new ways of working is vital, and Moberg has been fortunate. That’s because while the more intricate, facility-wide systems have been something of a struggle, the classroom technology has not.
“The classroom technology was used from day one,” Moberg said. “It was seamless. The laptops were docked, they went to work and we’ve never looked back.”