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Chapter 9
COMPUTERS AND TECHNOLOGY

This chapter reviews the Dripping Springs Independent School District's (DSISD's) computers and technology functions in three sections:

A. Organization, Staffing and Budgeting
B. Policies, Procedures and Planning
C. Infrastructure, Software, Hardware and Operations

C. INFRASTRUCTURE, SOFTWARE, HARDWARE AND OPERATIONS

DSISD has an estimated 1,000 computers to serve a student enrollment of more than 3,000 students. Students in grades Pre-K through 8 typically use Apple Macintosh computer models for classroom learning and have library access to PC model computers. Students at the high school level use PC model computers primarily for classroom learning; Apple Macintosh systems are used for video, graphics, journalism and Web design. Administrative and support staff use PC model computers, while teachers outside of the high school use Apple Macintosh computer models at their workstations. The district uses Apple servers set up on a dual platform to support Apple and Windows-based systems. The district has two servers located at the district office to support its business functions. The district is networked through a wide area network (WAN), using a network of switches and routers and communicating through fiber optic cable lines acquired at a discount through local business partnerships. The primary school has a wireless network connection, and the alternative school communicates with the WAN through remote dial-up access. The district also has Internet access through a T-1 line linked from the Region 13 service center to the network.

All district teachers and most staff have e-mail, the primary form of communication through the network, and every student has a designated folder on the server to save their work. Exhibit 9-6 shows a diagram of the DSISD infrastructure.

Exhibit 9-6
DSISD Network

 DSISD Network
Source: DSISD Technology Department.

The schools use more than 40 different types of software in classroom learning, from keyboarding instruction software to video production systems. DSISD schools work under the premise that technology is a tool to enhance the learning of students, so computers and software applications are integrated into classroom instruction through the cooperation of instructors and technology coordinators.

DSISD cafeterias point-of-sale software system transactions are directly communicated to district financial data systems. The Transportation Department uses management software to handle scheduling and routing issues. The district uses the Regional Service Center Computer Cooperative (RSCCC) software to manage its financial and human resources data, while the South Texas Multi-Regional Processing Center (STMRPC) software package manages student information. These software systems are supported by Region 13 and are used to compile data for the PEIMS state data reporting. The district has determined that these systems may not be meeting its needs, so a special committee has been created to consider options.

FINDING

DSISD has integrated technology into learning. The district also has used its technology funding to develop exceptional programs targeted at creatively teaching students how to use technology.

Middle school students learn about video broadcasting through an in-house broadcasting system called Mighty Tiger Television (MTTV). The students produce a daily program that includes school announcements, weather reports and special news features. In the process, students learn to work with sophisticated video production equipment and develop their presentation skills. In addition, the technology coordinator uses student assistants to provide technical support to teachers and staff, reinforcing student knowledge of computer systems through hands-on experience.

Intermediate school students create the school Web page under the supervision of teachers and the technology coordinator. The Web page is posted on the district Web site and is accessible to students, staff and the community.

Elementary school students combine a common classroom activity with camera animation techniques. The Claymation video production package allows students to create figures with clay and then manipulate the figures while taking still pictures. The Claymation software shows the students the final product, a short animated video of their clay creations coming to life.

The high school requires graduating seniors to make a presentation to a panel of school staff and community members. In this presentation, students must discuss their background, learned skills and future aspirations. As part of the presentation, seniors must demonstrate their ability to select appropriate technologies and use them creatively to demonstrate their technological proficiency, as well as how that proficiency will assist them in their chosen field.

These programs use technology to improve student education and help students develop a true understanding of the real-world environment that surrounds them. Through these technology programs, students also learn creative and communication skills that will serve the students in their future endeavors.

COMMENDATION

The district has enhanced classroom curriculum through innovative programs using technology.

FINDING

The Technology Department has achieved savings for the district by acquiring technology resources through partnerships with community residents and businesses. DSISD enlisted the help, support and skills of several community members employed at local technology companies. These volunteers have provided in-kind technology support and expertise to the Technology Department.

The district also obtained more significant infrastructure savings through local business partnerships. The Technology Infrastructure Fund (TIF) grant for nearly $300,000 that DSISD received in 2001 did not provide sufficient funds to connect two schools to the network through wireless connections. To remedy this situation, the district partnered with the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) and Zeecon wireless Internet company. LCRA offered Zeecon free tower space to maintain its wireless Internet services in the Dripping Springs service area; in return, Zeecon agreed to provide free wireless Internet service to DSISD, Dripping Springs Community Library District and the Hill Country Senior Citizen Activity Center.

Zeecon also constructed and donated two 150-foot towers to DSISD, which completed the school district's network and enabled Zeecon to provide high-speed wireless Internet services to the community. This endeavor brought significant savings to the district and was recognized in local media.

CAPCO, a local provider, agreed to connect fiber optic cable to the high school to create a network connection at the discounted price of a T1 line. The provider agreed to charge the discounted rate until the district owns the fiber optic cable. The Pedernales Electric Company (PEC) also provides free rent to DSISD to connect the fiber optic cable to its cable poles.

The district also sought resources from entities located outside the community. Technology Department staff contacted the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) when the high school science teacher learned that NASA has a computer equipment donation program. Subsequently, the technology staff received a large inventory of used computer equipment, including monitors, hardware and video equipment. Although much of the equipment was outdated for NASA, it was useable by DSISD. In addition, the donation provides a large quantity of spare parts for maintenance purposes. Over the years, DSISD has also received considerable technology equipment donations from Motorola and the Texas Medical Foundation.

These community and business partnerships have allowed the district to save thousands of dollars in maintenance, hardware and infrastructure costs.

COMMENDATION

DSISD successfully fosters partnerships with businesses and other groups as resources to support and enhance district technology services.