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Grant to help G-C explore options

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GREENFIELD — Greenfield-Central administrators are taking a significant step forward in putting computers into the hands of students.

The school corporation received a $30,000 grant to write a plan for a so-called one-to-one computer program. But just how many computers would be purchased, what grade levels would receive them and how they would be used is up in the air.

“It’s literally $30,000 to find out where we’re at and write this plan,” said Christina Hilton, assistant superintendent at G-C.

Hilton announced the grant at Monday’s school board meeting, having just received word of approval from the Indiana Department of Education Friday. G-C was one of 10 schools to receive the Innovation Planning Grant, which is specifically designed to help districts with a population of 5,000 students or less decide how to get more technology into the hands of students.

One-to-one computers are gaining in popularity in schools. In Hancock County, every Southern Hancock student in all grade levels will have access to a computer by next week. The move started a few years ago with a $200,000 DOE grant to purchase take-home computers for grades 7-12; by next week, the corporation’s youngest students will receive computers. At Eastern Hancock, grades 5-12 have their own portable computers.

At Greenfield-Central, every teacher has an iPad and desktop computer; most also have Apple TVs to enhance their iPad use, Hilton said. The planning grant will determine how teachers can use technology if every student had a computer at their fingertips.

About a third of the money goes toward a program that evaluates where each teacher is in terms of their ability to teach with technology, Hilton said. The program includes technology tutorials to help teachers improve their skills.

Another part of the grant will go toward professional development for staff. Indiana State University professor Jim Johnson will be the school corporation’s adviser on implementing technology, and Hilton said professional development will likely take place in June.

Administration and a technology team will also be digging into a digital learning e-book to plan on how to implement one-to-one computers.

“A lot of schools across the nation have started this (one-to-one computer program) and fallen flat on their faces because they tried too big, too fast and didn’t have a strategic plan,” Hilton said.

Hilton, who wrote the grant, will head the technology leadership team. Also on board is Greg Thompson, director of technology; Ann Vail, associate superintendent; Harold Olin, Greenfield Central Junior High principal; Dan Jack, G-CHS assistant principal; and Daniel Naegeli, G-CHS teacher.

Hilton said it’s too early to tell how many computers will be purchased for students, let alone what kind of computers they would be or when they would be purchased. The point of the grant, she said, is to come back to the board later this year with a solid plan for moving forward.

So far, the school board is eager to learn more. They unanimously accepted the grant, and Superintendent Linda Gellert said this will allow school administrators to step back from the hype and pressure of one-to-one computing and proceed with a sustainable plan for the near future.

“There’s a lot of pressure to get one-to-one going and I want it, your students want it, your teachers want it,” Gellert told the school board. “But until we find out what it is we can sustain, it’s just a flash in the pan. We’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars in technology. This (grant) is great; it will give us strategic planning.”

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