Bradley schools aim toward improving technology ratio

By KAITLIN GEBBY
Posted 2/15/20

When it comes to technology, Bradley County Schools is hurting, according to  instructional technology coordinator Scott Webb. The problem is not that they don’t have technology, but …

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Bradley schools aim toward improving technology ratio

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When it comes to technology, Bradley County Schools is hurting, according to  instructional technology coordinator Scott Webb. 


The problem is not that they don’t have technology, but rather there’s not enough of it to go around.  Devices are needing constant replacement. 


Webb gave an in-depth presentation on the victories and challenges in the technology sector of Bradley County Schools during the annual board retreat at Johnston Woods Saturday.

He explained the deficit in devices across some of Bradley County’s larger institutions, as well as some new programs implemented and on the way for the local school system. 


“Part of our problem, especially in secondary schools, is access,” he said. 


Webb explained t  there is a surplus of devices at the elementary school level. Taylor Elementary School is a good example of this, he said. The school has 255 teachers and students and 456 devices available. 


Director of Schools Dr. Linda Cash said many elementary schools have devices in excess due to grant funding from the Bradley Cleveland Public Education Foundation. 


On the flip side of that, Walker Valley High School has 1,596 teachers and students but only 912 devices.


Webb said these numbers show the surplus of devices at the elementary level and how the number peters out at the middle and high school levels. 


According to his report, Bradley County Schools serves an estimated 10,294 students across its 11 elementary schools, two middle schools, two high schools, the GOAL Academy and its virtual school. That’s not including teachers at those schools. Webb said there are 8,136 devices to go around, which includes teacher devices. 


To fix this, Webb suggested an upgrade in devices with a goal of creating a 1:1 ratio throughout the district. He emphasized that this venture would not only be expensive, but require reinvestment every few years as devices wear down. 


Under the 1:1 Initiative, Webb said they would have 1,500 iPads for kindergarten and first grade. Second-grade students would transition from iPads to Chromebooks, estimated at $500 each. Finally, grade 3 and above would all receive Chromebooks.

Webb estimated the district would need to purchase about 8,000 to 8,200 to fulfill that promise. 


In total, Webb said the 1:1 Initiative would cost approximately $2 million, a cost he said takes into account devices already purchased that would be redistributed according to grade level and need. 


Teachers are also in need of an upgrade. 


Under what he referred to as the Comprehensive Refresh Plan, Bradley County Schools would update instructional devices like SMART and Promethean boards. The majority of those devices were purchased in 2008, with “refreshing” or replacing them begun last year.

Webb said they will also need to update laptops and devices that are still running Windows 7. Most of the tech they have available needs Windows 10, he said. A refresh on all Windows 7 devices and instructional device upgrades would cost around $1.6 million, Webb said. 


In terms of accomplishments, Webb said he was proud that his department was preparing to launch an a la carte training program, where teachers can choose a specific time to be trained by one of Bradley County’s technology coaches. 


He added virtual reality headsets have made a big impact on elementary classrooms. Teachers can check out the headsets from the library. They are able to take their students on virtual field trips and offer lessons that place the wearer in the action without leaving the classroom. 


“If you ever get the opportunity to see these headsets in action, go watch, because the kids go crazy for them,” he told the board Saturday. “You put one of those VR headsets on a kid and a shark swims by them … it’ll bring you nothing but joy.” 


Overall, Webb explained  the mission of his department is to give all students the opportunity to succeed in the 21st century classroom. 

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