BUSD Tech Task Force Issues Recommendations To School Board

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Teacher Debbie McHorney uses the SMART Board in class. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

After more than a year of testing, the BUSD Tech Task Force has settled on two items to recommend for placement in Burbank Unified classrooms: SMART interactive white boards and Aver document cameras. Task force member Bob Martin and the District’s Director of Instruction and Accountability Sharon Cuseo presented these recommendations to the Board of Education recently.

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Burbank Chamber

“The projected roll-out is this coming summer for the first round,” commented Martin, a former Muir Middle and Burbank High English teacher who has been working for BUSD as Teacher On Special Assignment (TOSA) for Instructional Technology since 2012. “This is based on expectations of board approval.”

“Subsequent roll-outs will be determined by the second and third issuance of bond funds,” he added. “Our goal is to eventually have every classroom fitted with new technology.”

Teacher Debbie McHorney interacts with the SMART Board. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)
Teacher Debbie McHorney interacts with the SMART Board. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

“While we do not have a definitive number of teachers willing to take on the new technology; based on conversations with teachers, our on-line survey, and interest at the October meeting where the technology was demonstrated, we believe that we will have more volunteers than available technology,” Martin explained.

The cost to outfit an individual classroom with an interactive white board, a document camera, an audio system and an interactive response solution for teachers and students, including labor, is approximately $10,000, according to Charles Poovakan, Director of Information Technology and Educational Support for the district.

Burbank Chamber
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While the current plan is limited to 20 classrooms because of the $200,000 budget the task force was initially given, the cost for complete district-wide implementation of the initial elements is expected to be close to nine million dollars, for over 800 areas in schools and offices, Poovakan explained.

The technology funds in the first issuance of the Measure S bond are being used to strengthen the infrastructure required for the 21st Century Classroom and typical daily operations. A relatively small allotment of funds in the first phase of the bond is planned for use to purchase the actual technology items.

Burroughs teacher Kevin Hiatt uses the Aver document camera daily. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)
Burroughs teacher Kevin Hiatt uses the Aver document camera daily. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Eight teachers who tested the items for the task force will be among the first to receive the new technology. The other 12 systems will be placed at eight elementary schools, the Burbank Adult School, Monterey High School, Community Day School and the District Office.

“Anything you can do on a computer you can do on the SMART Board,” commented Burroughs High School teacher Debbie McHorney, who is also the high school JV Girls Basketball coach. “You can write right on the board, mark it up, with a pen or your finger.”

McHorney also finds Google Docs very useful to ask study questions of her students. She uses the voice amplifier system that came with the SMART Board, so she doesn’t have to stress her voice to be heard clearly throughout the classroom.

Burroughs High School teacher Kevin Hiatt also uses the Aver document camera every day. He is able to run a timer for the classroom to see while students complete in-class work and uses the device to go over student answers.

Kevin Hiatt fills in his answer during a timed in-class assignment.(Photo By Lisa Paredes)
Kevin Hiatt fills in his answer during a timed in-class assignment.(Photo By Lisa Paredes)

“The document cameras are wonderful. I can now show my students demos, notes, pictures, diagrams, drawings, etc. up on the large projector screen for everyone to clearly see,” commented Burroughs Biology teacher Jill Tobin.

“I haven’t yet used the microscope adaptor, but am excited about its capabilities. I honestly use my document camera every single day, and it is as vital to my instruction as my computer,” she added. “I couldn’t imagine teaching without it. Being a visual learner, as many people are, it is nice to be able to show my students virtually anything we’re learning about; live and in color!”

At a February School Board meeting, Board Member Larry Applebaum expressed frustration with the relatively small number, 20, of classrooms for the initial roll out.

“I don’t care what we have to do, we need to come up with a plan to get one hundred of these into the classroom in the next year,” Applebaum said.

“We need to get on this post-haste, but let’s make sure that our plan is exactly what we want,” commented Board President Dave Kemp about getting technology components for the 21st Century Classroom project up and running in the schools. “We’ll get it out there and get it in the hands of kids, ’cause they do need it.”

Teacher Debbie McHorney uses the SMART Board in class. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)
Teacher Debbie McHorney uses the SMART Board in class. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

“This is how we reach those GATE students and special ed. students,” Applebaum added, emphasizing ways technology can help with teaching to differentiated levels of learning in the classroom.

“Mr. Poovakan and I are happy to move in any direction the Board directs us. That is not a problem,” Cuseo underlined at the meeting, indicating the district’s ability to increase the number of classrooms outfitted in the initial 21st Century Classroom roll out, if the Board of Education allocates additional money to the project.

The current Technology Task Force started meeting monthly in spring 2013 and is headed up by Poovakan. A typical meeting usually has around 12 members, including teachers from elementary, middle and high schools, classified staff, technology personnel and administrators.

“The task force is an open committee that anyone can attend. In the past, we have had a parent present as well,” said Martin.

During the meetings, the technology department updates the members with the current projects regarding infrastructure, explained Martin. They “discuss needs throughout the district, ways technology can better support teachers and software/hardware that should be researched for possible inclusion in the classroom.”

A student selects an answer on the SMART Board. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)
A student selects an answer on the SMART Board. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

The Board of Education is expected to reach a decision soon on approval and scope of the initial outfitting of classrooms with the SMART Boards, Aver document cameras and accompanying components. The Tech Task Force is currently overseeing testing of additional elements, including tablets and one-to-one devices, at various schools this spring.