St. Charles schools rank 4th in nation for tech

Superintendent: ‘Technology is a driving force in today’s world’

For many students of St. Charles Parish Public Schools, learning now includes using a Chromebook in the classroom. But it’s also a distinction that puts the system among the highest ranking in the nation for the use of technology in education.

The system ranked fourth nationally in the Digital School Districts Survey by the Center for Digital Education and the National School Boards Association. It’s high praise for a system that administrators say is important only for how technology aids education, ensuring teaching remains the priority over trendy tech.

Superintendent Felecia Gomez-Walker called the recognition an honor, adding, “Technology is a driving force in today’s world, and this ranking indicates that we are a technology leader in the nation.”

The survey showcases exemplary use of school boards’ and districts’ use of technology to govern the district, communicate with students, parents and the community and to improve district operations.

The school district tied for fourth place with Lakeville Area Public Schools in Minnesota and Oconomowoc Area School District in Wisconsin. Lebanon School District in Pennslyania ranked first on the list and two systems ranked 10th: Marietta City Schools and Rome City Schools, both in Georgia.

Participating in the survey doesn’t only bring the schools recognition, it provides an invaluable reference on staying on the cutting edge of the fast-moving tech world.

“It gives us a comparison to the nation on how we’re doing in technology,” said Colleen Charles, the system’s director of Instructional Technology. “Doing this helps us see the cutting edge things school systems are already doing, such as piloting or researching things, and it helps the system stay ahead in determining what’s next.”

Stephanie Steib, director of Information Technology Services, said the reviewers also factor in how school leadership uses it toward transparency of school boards by posting the meetings by video online. She praised the School Board’s support and vision toward making this possible.Charles said the biggest recent tech addition to schools is

Chromebooks for students in grades six through eight.

“It makes a big difference than what we’ve been doing,” she said. “They are using Google classroom and the teachers are putting their instructions into it.”

She recently observed a teacher with students reading two different books and comparing the authors — and what a difference online learning made to the lesson.

“The student teams were collaborating, and then they can share their feedback on the content and writing,” Charles said. “In the past, a teacher would have needed a much bigger process to make this happen yet I saw it done with technology in 20 minutes.”

As budgeting allows, more students will get the laptops, Charles said.

At the Satellite Center, Steib said devices are tailored to studies because of the specific needs.

“The right device for the right area,” she said of how technology is applied to learning.

Charles said the next big thing in technology is mobility.

To make this possible, Steib said the school system’s backbone or network is being upgraded this year. She estimated the project is nearly 85 percent complete.

“Anything mobile, students will have access to our network and Internet, and ensuring the network is ready for this online learning,” she said. “The School Board was very supportive in this project.”

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