NLA invests $350,000 in technologyNew Life Academy, a Woodbury K-12 school, took a huge stride forward over the summer by upgrading their technology infrastructure.
By: Mark Pautsch, Woodbury Bulletin
New Life Academy, a Woodbury K-12 school, took a huge stride forward over the summer by upgrading their technology infrastructure. The goal of the project was to implement a core set of technology that would impact how teaching was delivered in the classroom.
According to Terry Campbell, academy administrator, technology investment had been less than it should have been over the past few years. As a result, the academy found itself facing an increased level of problems with the technology that was deployed and found it more difficult to utilize technology in the classroom.
In the spring of 2008 an overall technology plan was developed which outlined the weaknesses that existed and an overall approach for correcting those weaknesses. As with any school, funding these types of initiatives is a challenge. However, having a clear plan that could be shared with the New Life families proved to be key in raising the funds that were necessary to proceed to implementation. A $100,000 matching gift served as the catalyst to eventually raising the money to fund the project. Campbell stated that more than 25 percent of the academy’s families ended up contributing to the project.
Over the summer, a relatively small group of vendors and academy personnel worked to push the academy to a more advanced level of technology use. As is usually the case, the first big challenge was disposing of the old equipment. Approximately 30 pallets of old computers, monitors, network gear, wires, keyboards and mice were recycled making way for the new equipment. Then the fun of building out the new infrastructure started. In the end, New Life Academy was able to accomplish the following.
• Implemented 115 new desktop computers and 55 new laptop computers. Most of the laptop computers were deployed in mobile computer carts that can be deployed in minutes to any classroom in the building. These new computers brought the total computers available in the school to 260.
• Standardized all the workstations on Windows XP professional, Office 2007 and various academic software packages.
• Remodeled space to house a new computer lab, computer office and computer room. The new space provides an excellent area for using the technology as well as providing good support to keep the technology running well.
• Upgraded the network infrastructure in order to provide access to the computers throughout the building. The upgrades included adding over 100 new network connections and implementing a wireless network infrastructure currently directed to supporting the mobile computer labs.
• Introduced an entirely new school management system which tracks all key aspects of school operations including curriculum, student, family, grade, and attendance information. The system impacts 100 percent of the faculty, students and families involved at the academy. A key improvement of the new system is access via the Internet for parents and students to information about how students are doing.
• Replaced over 60 printers with 15 work group printers which also provide copying and scanning capability. Introducing this new capability greatly improves teachers’ ability to produce the materials needed to teach classes.
• Completed the rollout of data projectors in all the classrooms. The project was started two years ago with a goal of equipping every classroom in the school with a projector, screen, computer, speakers and DVD player.
Implementation of the new technology is just the beginning. Ongoing support and integration of the new technology into the classroom is currently underway.
The academy moved towards an outsourced model for supporting the new technology. The academy only employs one full-time technology person. However, by leveraging several technology service providers, the support levels are higher than typically seen even with a higher internal staffing approach. And, of equal importance, this approach is proving to be very economical.
The value from the technology upgrades will be seen as the curriculum is modified to utilize the technology. Additional technology training is being provided to the faculty and as the curriculum is reviewed for a particular subject area, the implications of the new technology capabilities are taken into consideration.
For more information visit the academy’s website at www.newlifeacademy.org.
Pautsch is the IT director and New Life Church and Academy.