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Lake Oswego schools in the digital age

Parents, district administration consider new technological platforms


What forms of technology are being used to educate Lake Oswego students, and whether those are the ones that should be employed, was the focus at the Nov. 16 Coordinating Council meeting of parent club representatives.

When the Lake Oswego School District received a grant 12 years ago to outfit the district with technology, it was decided that the same business-grade devices and operating systems should be installed in every school, in a process known as standardization.

“While technology is so clearly critical to our educational process, and parents want desperately for children to have it, we’ve had to cut 6 of 10 support people over the last few years,” said Jennifer Curran, president of the Lake Oswego High School parent club. “That has resulted in the critical necessity for us to use standardized platforms in order to allow quicker support from our overtaxed systems people.”

“We purchase three-year hardware warranty,” said Jeff Kelso, director of computer network services. “The reason we do that is because as our department has shrunk, we don’t have the manpower to go out and replace our drives every time they fail.”

Director of Secondary Education Donna Atherton said standardization was originally implemented largely in an effort to avoid compatibility issues among different forms of technology.

“Now, that’s less of an issue,” she said. “There’s no need to standardize cameras anymore; they’re all very compatible.”

Today, standardization is the district’s MO for financial reasons.

“Over the long run ... your cost comes in managing and maintaining whatever ... technology item it is,” Kelso said. “It behooves us to try to stick with the business products for the longevity of the hardware.”

“When we purchase technology, it’s not just about ticket price, but ‘total cost of ownership,’ which means support for the life of the item,” Curran said. “Non-standardized platforms cost significantly more than we can afford.”

But change is on the horizon. Beginning in 2014-15, the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, Oregon’s statewide assessment system, will be delivered through a web-based testing system.

This system will adhere to the Oregon Department of Education’s new Common Core Standards, educational content standards designed to ensure all students are college and career ready in literacy and mathematics by the end of high school.

Atherton said these tests would be writing-intensive, and thus typing heavy.

For that reason, she said, “I would strongly encourage parents and schools to really look at purchasing iPads over laptops at this point ... when Common Core comes in, we will be able to use iPads with keyboards.”

Parent club members pointed out different phases of education might require different forms of technology, such as iPad Minis or laptops.

Atherton said she and Kelso would consider such options in the future, adding that parents should “know that what we want is whatever donations you bring to us, we want to make sure that they work and that they work over the long run. It’s not that we’re trying to be inflexible ... we just need the system to work.”