Call to Order and Roll Call
The first meeting of the Task Force on Student Access to Technology was held on Tuesday, July 24, 2012, at<MeetTime> 10:00 AM, in Room 149 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Carl Rollins II, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Guests: David Couch, Associate Commissioner, Office of Education Technology, Kentucky Department of Education; Brian Kiser, Executive Director, Office of Broadband Outreach and Development.
Mobile Computing Devices in Kentucky Schools
Mr. David Couch, Associate Commissioner, Office of Technology, Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), said that KDE is the leader in the United States for Cloud-based computing. Cloud-based computing means that computer servers, which used to reside in school buildings or district offices, have moved to outside locations. The KDE email system server is located in San Antonio, Texas, and it has a backup in Chicago, Illinois. The KDE financial management system is also being transitioned to reside from Kentucky school district offices to Portland, Maine, with a backup in Dallas, Texas. Cloud-based systems allow the use of mobile devices that can be used anytime and anywhere, which is called dense wireless.
Mr. Couch said that equity and ease of access are key points to getting students involved in personal digital learning. KDE is seeing an increase in teachers integrating the technology learning experience as a guide. It is also seeing mobile devices improve the parent-to-student engagement.
Mr. Couch said that when schools are considering adding technology, they need to be aware of the “hype cycle” that technology follows. First, there is a driving demand for the newest technology. Following that, there is the peak of inflated expectations. The key point in the cycle is called the trough of disillusionment, where many technology initiatives die. For example, if the technology is not mature and stays in the trough for two years, it will typically go away. Schools should make sure newer technology has the ability to sustain to a version 2.0 or 3.0.
Typically, school districts or companies should buy technology when it is coming off the slope of enlightenment and entering the plateau of productivity on the hype cycle. However, if they wait too long to buy, the technology will be outdated. Superintendents, education technology leaders, and other finance officers have been very successful when using the “hype-cycle” tool.
Mr. Couch said there are four questions that should be considered before implementing a technology program: 1) can you; 2) should you; 3) how much; and 4) who pays. Cost needs to include the total cost of ownership for sustaining the program for at least five years.
Mr. Couch discussed the nine elements of digital citizenship and the importance of students developing and retaining good people skills while using technology. School districts that have implemented a 1:1 computer solution for their students have required that their students receive a digital license. Most of these are tied back to the nine elements of digital citizenship.
For example, in Woodford County every student must complete training to get a digital license. If the student abuses the privilege of the license, he or she lose part of or the entire digital license, and the student must show the capability of using it responsibly before it is reinstated.
Mr. Couch said a study was recently completed to show what will be needed to stay competitive in education in the next decade. One of the key points was digital learning. KDE has empirical data on state, national, and global levels that show digital learning is in the immediate future. It allows students to personalize their learning, which provides a more engaging experience.
Mr. Couch said he asks the school districts to keep in mind several factors when considering a 1:1 program: 1) whether it makes educational sense; 2) whether it can be fiscally supported; 3) whether it makes technical sense to do it; and 4) whether there is support staff to keep the technology operational and reliable for the teacher.
Technology can be an educational multiplier if the school districts already have a solid educational practice. If the districts do not have a solid practice in place, the technology will actually send them in the wrong direction faster.
Equity and ease of access will increase the odds of students using the technology in the classroom instruction. Schools will not need to have special computer labs because they will have mobile devices to use anytime and anywhere. There is a significant and overwhelming advantage to having technology educational tools at home and at school.
Mr. Couch stated that the new technology is very teacher friendly, making it easy to utilize in the classroom. The technology must be reliable or the teachers will not integrate it into lesson plans. There must also be a low initial and ongoing cost. If the districts can not financially sustain it, they do not need to start it.
Mr. Couch shared statistics from a survey that was conducted across the country of students, teachers, parents, and administrators about the top uses of mobile devices in their personal lives. The survey showed that 74 percent of students check their grades using their mobile device. Other high percentages of use were for taking notes, internet research, and collaboration with peers.
Kentucky became the first to deploy a mobile application in October 2011 called Infinite Campus. The Infinite Campus application allows student, teachers, and parents to share immediate updates on tests, assignments, schedules and grades. It creates a more engaging experience for the parents. This became the number one educational application in the United States when it was deployed, and it has been a major success.
Mr. Couch said that sixth graders in particular are much more tech savvy and more likely to use emerging technology tools than their older siblings. Twenty-five percent use e-textbooks, 50 percent have a cell phone. A third of the cell phones are smart phones with data plans. Fifty percent of the sixth grade students have Facebook accounts, which is a 125 percent increase in the last two years.
Mr. Couch said that in 2008, 21 percent of parents believed that on-line textbooks were a good idea. The numbers are now reaching 70 percent. On-line textbooks can provide significant savings. For example, Hancock County previously paid $144 for a single new math book per student. Now, it can get an electronic textbook for $144 for all students that year.
Mr. Couch also discussed was blended learning. Thirty percent of students have experience with blended learning, which is up from 10 percent two years ago. A blended learning environment yields high results including an 81 percent increase in test scores, a 63 percent reduction in disciplinary action, and a 59 percent dropout rate reduction.
Students have become more engaged with online collaboration. By using mobile devices, collaboration is no longer limited to face-to-face interaction. Students are able to use Skype, Facetime, and other social networking applications to interact with their peers while working together on school projects. Sixty-nine percent of schools reported a drop in disciplinary action, and 62 percent reported a reduction in dropouts due to students’ online collaboration.
Mr. Couch explained that implementing a 1:1 program can provide additional savings by eliminating other expenses. For example, in Hancock and Woodford counties, the use of iPads eliminates the need for other devices that districts or parents had to acquire. There is no longer the need to pay $120 for a graphing calculator when there is a $0.99 iPad application. Having these devices also cuts down the schools’ printing and copy costs.
Mr. Couch said that using the technology as an integral part of instruction has also benefited the various subject areas of school and in preparing for college. College enrollment, attendance, and course completion have seen percentage increases as the student-computer ratio is moving towards 1:1.
Regarding funding, Mr. Couch said the majority of the funding sources for the technology initiatives come from school operating budget or capital budgets. Another source is state or federal grants.
The major 1:1 mobile initiatives in Kentucky are based across 11 school districts, mainly in the high school level with some in the middle school level. Examples include, Hancock County, which purchased the technology at 100 percent, and Woodford County, which uses students’ textbook fees to help pay for the electronic devices.
Mr. Couch explained there are several school districts with “bring your own device” (BYOD) programs. BYOD programs are possible because parents are willing to purchase a device for their children to take to school and use at home.
Mr. Couch stated that with 40 percent of homes having DSL internet access and 32.6 percent having cable modem, the ease of home internet is increasing. Ninety-three percent of teachers have internet access at home. Seventy-nine percent of students in grades K-12 have a computer at home. Sixty-eight percent of those students’ computers are less than five years old.
The smart phone devices have seen an increase in use and purchase as well. In 2010, roughly 22,000 students in K-12 had a smart phone device. That number jumped to 32,000 in 2011.
The percentage of district-owned laptops, tablets, and mobile devices is primarily consumed by laptops at 68 percent. Seventy-eight percent of teachers use a laptop as a portable instructional device.
Mr. Couch said that many teachers are taking advantage of the free content on Web 2.0 as instructional material. Sixty-eight percent of districts encourage and support Web 2.0.
Mr. Couch shared a specific example from Woodford County. He said Woodford County has a 24/7 learning opportunity, meaning there is always internet access for immediate research opportunities. The district has more student-centered learning experiences with a more project-based learning approach.
Woodford County participated in teacher education, which included advance training for teachers. Teachers were issued iPads five months in advance. The district wanted to ensure that the teachers could operate the online classrooms and utilize the technology. It also developed an iPad Instructional Team.
Mr. Couch stated that, with a move to a 1:1 program, it is very important to have appropriate usage policies in place. Woodford County employs student handbooks, student/parent agreements, and an iPad Protection plan. This plan requires that the Woodford County students pay a $35 fee in the event that the device is lost or stolen. The district has adopted a discipline philosophy geared for a digital learning environment and implemented a student preparation program so students can earn their digital driver’s licenses.
Mr. Couch said that in Woodford County the iPad amplified the teachers’ weaknesses and strengths. The teachers who integrated the iPad into their regular classroom instruction experienced more success with students’ participation than teachers who did not.
Responding to a question from Representative Rollins regarding internet research and its value, Mr. Couch stated that is covered in the digital citizenship training. It helps students differentiate between factual information and fiction.
Responding to Representative Rollins regarding parents’ using the internet to check children’s grades, assignments, and attendance, Mr. Couch said that when parental usage was only one to two percent when first checked, but it has now jumped to 20-30 percent.
Responding to a question from Representative Rollins, Mr. Couch explained that Woodford County’s 1:1 program does not include summer use. Representative Rollins suggested that using the mobile device over the summer may help with the loss of learning that occurs on summer breaks with students.
Responding to a question from Senator Stine, Mr. Couch explained that the location of the remote Cloud-based server’s backup is decided by the company providing the service. He said that KDE officials visited those sites to make sure they are capable of housing the servers.
Senator Stine inquired about the technology use training that teachers are receiving. Mr. Couch responded that it varies by district, and there is no statewide approach to teacher training.
Representative Rollins inquired about the technology training that teachers receive while in college. Mr. Couch said technology training is being included in the colleges of education so teachers will be ready when they begin their teaching careers.
Responding to Senator Stine in regards to discounts or incentives for teachers to get the latest technology, Mr. Couch said they receive discounts available through the state.
Senator Stine also inquired about virtual classrooms in the event of snow days or a day where a student is unable to make it to class. Mr. Couch said that is an example of blended learning being used by some districts.
Responding to Senator Stine’s question regarding updating the technology once it is purchased, Mr. Couch said there are two options for updating software. Districts can either lease software, which will be automatically updated, or they can purchase software and replace it when newer software is available.
Senator Stine asked about efforts to further fund private/public partnerships to facilitate the use of technology, specifically by KDE. Mr. Couch said KDE is working with the Cloud computing partners and many others.
Senator Stine asked who is responsible for ramifications of students’ incorrect use of the technology. Mr. Couch said schools make it very clear that at any given time the device may be inspected before students are given the device.
Responding to a question from Senator Stine regarding the education of special needs children, Mr. Couch stated many special needs students are power users of technology and depend greatly on it as a learning tool.
Representative Rollins added to that by stating that there are several “apps” that are specifically geared towards special needs children.
Responding to Senator Parrett regarding the relationship between technology use and the reduction in disciplinary action, Mr. Couch said the students find using the technology a much more engaging learning experience, which in turn has an effect on disciplinary action and lower dropout rates.
Responding to Representative Carney, Mr. Couch explained that there is a great interest in Infinite Campus and allowing parents and students to check grades, assignments, and homework online. Representative Carney agreed students can benefit greatly from using technology and dropout rates will improve. He also said using this technology helps eliminate socio-economic inequity among students because they are able to work together in and out of the classroom.
Responding to Representative Carney’s comments, Mr. Couch said that western Kentucky districts have been state leaders in starting 1:1 programs at their schools. Many Kentucky districts have issues with initial startup costs and sustainment funds. However, by using electronic textbooks, there are incredible long-term savings.
Senator Givens asked Mr. Couch to explain the concept of a “flipped classroom.” Mr. Couch said that in a standard classroom, students learn the basic concepts at school and then work at home alone on homework or a project. In a “flipped classroom” environment, students use the technology to work together in a classroom and at home.
Senator Givens stated that more should be done to amplify the message that Kentucky is a pioneer in Cloud computing. Mr. Couch said that utilizing Cloud-based computing maximizes the Kentucky taxpayer’s dollar and makes the system easier to support.
Responding to a question from Senator Givens about digital curriculum, Mr. Couch stated that teachers can impact the content locally. The teacher-created content through iTunes University can be shared across the state. Mr. Couch thinks that Kentucky is well positioned for the next 10 years if the state moves towards in-class mobile devices.
Senator Givens asked Mr. Couch how KDE views its role regarding mobile devices in classrooms. Mr. Couch explained that KDE not only sees the districts as customers, but KDE offers leadership for the districts across Kentucky and can share across the state what is new and improved with the schools through weekly webcasts.
Senator Carpenter commented that many students’ grades and classroom interaction are improving because learning with mobile devices seems more “game like” and engaging. The students are able to learn at their own level and move at their own pace. Mr. Couch stated that educators see these tools as differential learning devices. From a student’s perspective, school is more enjoyable, and the students who once struggled are now flourishing.
Senator Carpenter asked how districts that cannot afford textbooks can provide mobile devices. Mr. Couch stated that districts are looking at their budgets for ways to maximize their money. School districts are making strategic decisions and looking for areas they can cut so they can provide the mobile devices.
Senator Stine asked if KDE was pursuing any grants from federal or private sources for the schools or does the district have to find those on their own. Mr. Couch explained that KDE tries to maximize every discount it can. Kentucky has always been a top contender among states in regards to maximizing every dollar. However, districts can pursue individual grants if they choose.
Broadband Availability and Access in Kentucky
Brian Kiser, Executive Director, Office of Broadband Outreach and Development, discussed broadband specifics. Broadband is defined by the National Telephone and Information Administration (NTIA) as 768 kilobytes of speed or greater. The types of services that are classified as broadband include:
· Digital Subscriber (DSL), which covers most of the state but is limited in speed to six megabytes (mbs);
· Cable modem, which provides up to 25 mbs in speed;
· Fiber, which is expensive but has great speed potential;
· Wireless, which can be expensive and not as reliable due to location, amount of online traffic and weather conditions; and
· Satellite, which is more expensive than other sources, has size limitations, and is unreliable in rugged terrain and weather conditions.
Mr. Kiser said Kentucky has a population of 4,273,951 with a total area of 40,411 square miles. There are 1,686,618 households in our state. Mr. Kiser stated that 1.4 million have access to broadband but do not use it. The reasons given for not adopting broadband are that it does not provide value and it is too expensive. The largest barrier to broadband adoption is not lack of access to the technology but rather a perceived lack of need. Roughly 2.4 million Kentuckians subscribe to an internet service provider, which is about 58 percent of the state, even though there is 91 percent availability. Kentucky residents choose not to use broadband because they feel it is unaffordable and inadequate.
Mr. Kiser said Kentucky ranks 47th nationally among states for internet and Utah ranks first with 80 percent. Mr. Kiser said that Kentucky needs affordable and reliable broadband and increased broadband adoption.
Investments in broadband will allow Kentucky students to compete globally, improve distance learning opportunities and offer more learning opportunities for the low income and students with disabilities. It will also encourage businesses to relocate to Kentucky, ultimately providing jobs for future graduates.
Responding to Representative Rollins, Mr. Kiser said that a telephone landline is required to have DSL. Representative Rollins voiced his concerns about the rural areas and students who do not have a home landline. Mr. Kiser explained that his office works with about 80 percent of internet providers to ensure access. He said 100 percent of the school districts have internet access.
Responding to Senator Stine, Mr. Kiser said that the department pursues grants and funding to make broadband access more affordable for the residents of Kentucky. Mr. Kiser stated his office is looking at changes in current law that the General Assembly might want to consider to help address the issue.
Senator Givens wanted to clarify broadband coverage versus adoption. Mr. Kiser explained that six out of 10 people are adopting broadband, and there needs to be more blanketed coverage across Kentucky in order for residents to adopt it. Mr. Kiser stated that affordability is the largest hurdle residents face right now.
Responding to Representative Palumbo, Mr. Kiser said that sometimes when a customer chooses dial-up, that is simply because that is all that is available or all that the customer can afford.
Responding to Senator Carpenter, Mr. Kiser said that he met recently with one of the larger telecommunications providers regarding changes needed to telecommunication laws. He said that his office will be providing more information at a later date.
Responding to Representative Carney, Mr. Kiser stated that AT&T, for example, has invested $600 million in broadband over the last two to three years. T-Mobile and Verizon are also large investors in wireless and broadband.
The next meeting will be Monday, August 27th at 1:00 p.m.
With no further business to come before the committee, the meeting adjourned at 12:15 p.m.