Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Capital Budget '10/11: SMARTboard discussion

For some reason, Smartboards were not actually discussed with the Superintendent or BOE last night. They were discussed among the Council members, largely in relation to the notion that Smartboards were not purchased last year. However, the Superintendent has clarified the history of the four-year-old Smartboard program:And here are some further details from him in this memo dated 8/24/2006:

What is a SMART Board?

It is an interactive (approximately 4” X 5”) board that mimics the computer to which it is connected. It requires an LCD projector. It is also a touch screen that allows computer commands and actions to be made directly on the board. It allows access to all computer software applications stored on a PC and access to Internet websites and software (if the PC has access). It also is an interactive marker board.

Why SMART Boards in all Classrooms?

A SMART Board provides interactive instructional capabilities at all grade levels. It utilizes technology as a practical tool as well as a tool that engages students in their learning. The practical tool provides video streaming, Internet-based research and information, application software (i.e. Microsoft Office, Inspiration) to an entire class, small groups or individuals. It engages children that are active participants in a mediabased culture in their learning.

Why $1.5 million?

The Cheshire Public Schools has missed opportunities to improve educational technology in schools. Prior to 2003/04 the BOE operating budget supported the maintenance and growth of technology in the schools. With funding reductions since 03/04 the district can only focus on maintenance.

While the initial (early 1990s) vision for classroom PCs was instructional, over the past decade the focus of technology in our buildings has been administrative rather than instructional. Classroom data management (grading, student records, special education) and communication (e-mail, Internet access) has been the focus of technological growth in the schools. While these tools have indirectly impacted instruction, the PC is not the interactive tool it can be in most classrooms.

What is the scope of project?

It includes installation of approximately 300 SMART Boards. This includes the mounting, wiring and purchase of a LCD projector for each instructional space (including electrical), the installation of a SMART Board and wiring to the LCD and classroom PC. All instructional spaces in the schools have a networked PC – no added PCs would need to be purchased. The estimated cost for equipment and installation is $5,000 per location.

Should the purchase be phased in?

Phasing in the technology is certainly possible. There are economies to purchasing in larger quantities, however the greatest savings is in installation. The labor cost per unit would be lower on a larger scale project.

Ideally a phase-in would occur with installations across all school facilities (i.e. one per grade level, one per team or per department), providing greater access to the technology at all grade levels. This determination would be made based on per unit installation costs and the amount of funding available for the project.

What is the lifecycle cost?

LCD PROJECTOR: The standard LCD projector, based on experience with current equipment, can last 6-10 years. The bulbs in the projectors being considered are rated for 3,000 hours. Which should provide 3-4 years of use. The cost for replacement bulbs is $300. It would be anticipated that $25,000-$35,000/ year would be required to maintain the projectors in the 3rd year after installation.

SMARTBOARDS: SMART Boards have been in existence for over 15 years. The oldest boards in the district are 6-7 years old. These boards are as effective as newer models.

UTILITIES: Based on specifications from the manufacturer and estimated hours of operation, each unit would require an increase of between $70-$75 of electricity each year. This will cost approximately $21,000 each year. However there will be some offset in energy cost, as other equipment will no longer be required.

Will the SMART Board become obsolete?

While technology will certainly change, the PC drives the SmartBoard. The software used to run the SmartBoard is based on the PC. As PCs age the district must replace them regardless of whether they are used with a SmartBoard or not.

Who will train the teachers and how much will it cost?

All schools have initiatives that focus on using the existing SMART Boards in our schools. Training that currently takes place is, almost exclusively, provided by teachers training other teachers. The development of lessons and the training of staff are already occurring. Future costs would be part of the existing Professional Development budget.

Status of Technology in Schools:

WAN – Based at Town Hall, Fiber Connection between CHS and Town Hall, soon at Dodd, all other schools connected by T-1 lines to Town Hall.
LAN – School based, Category 5 wire with some Fiber backbones between IDFs. Limited Wireless Networking in some locations.
Classroom – One networked PC in each classroom (general condition – some rooms have more than one PC).

Here's a post from four years ago when I requested the lifecycle costs from the Sptd. I suspect the comments remain the same today.

One other question that's been asked this year relates to the level of actual usage. Are the SMARTboards being used four hours per day or four minutes per day? And is that use related to the technology or is it simply being used as a whiteboard? I really have no idea. But considering we now have experience, it's an appropriate question to ask.

Maybe this will end up being a referendum item this year?

Your thoughts?

Tim White


Breachway said...

They are similar to what you see them use on TV, CNN, etc....they are a good tool and I believe they are worth it if the teacher knows how to use it. I have seen them used at open house several times....impressive

Anonymous said...

Impressive bells and whistles with dubious educational benefit. Only supported by theory, not by solid research. But who needs proof of better learning when the technology is so dazzling?!

Anonymous said...

Your right old text books were much more interesting and attention grabbing. Has solid research determined the benefit is dubious? C'mon

Anonymous said...

They are nothing more than a gadget & in a few years will be collecting dust, replaced by the latest gadget...a waste of money.

Bill said...

Had the BOE several years ago presented the entire cost to outfit the entire district under a capital budget plan than trying to get it passed through on an annual operational plan the plan would have been approved by the voters. It appeared at the time the sponsors were afraid at the the time to ask the public to vote on a a referendum of 1.5 mil or whatever it was. Had the BOE been honest in the cost and the approach it would have been approved. The entire project cost exceeds the the referendum limit and a one time operational increase in the BOE budget of 1.5 mil for smart boards. The belief was the residents would not have approved a capital cost so the BOW attempted to get it approved as a part if the operations budget and Mr Morowka was smart enough to see the differences.

Anonymous said...

I doubt the voters would have approved this waste of money then or now. They would demand evidence of its cost-benefit and not settled for cliches like makes learning more fun & interesting.