Battle Ground Public Schools is about to make a major upgrade to technology education across the district, thanks in part to a $300,000 grant from the Federal Communication Commission’s E-rate program. Students in all schools will benefit as the Technology Services department prepares to replace the district’s entire wireless network this year.

Replacing the wireless network at all of Battle Ground’s schools and administrative offices is a massive undertaking that will take a team of employees several months to complete. The new network will provide enhanced capabilities, bandwidth, security features, ease of use, and improved network support. Roughly half of the cost of the replacement project will be paid for by E-rate funding, which comes from the Federal Communication Commission’s Universal Service Fund to provide discounts for telecommunications, Internet access and internal connections to eligible schools and libraries.

“Battle Ground Public Schools recognizes that technology plays a critical role in education and is committed to providing students with the tools needed to succeed in modern classrooms and work environments,” said Scott McDaniel, the district’s director of technology. “We are excited for the opportunity to upgrade our already strong, reliable and secure network that is capable of supporting technology use by each student, every day, in all of our schools.”

One of the major ways BGPS is able to deliver on its goals of providing equitable access to technology in the classroom is through the 1:1 (one-to-one) computing initiative. The 1:1 program was launched during the 2016-17 school year with the goal of eventually putting a Chromebook—a type of laptop computer that accesses educational applications on the Internet—into the hands of every student in grades 6-12 for use at school and at home.

The program has been steadily gaining momentum through a planned, phased rollout. After launching with seventh graders at several district middle schools in 2017, the 1:1 program was expanded to include all students in grades 6-9 for the 2017-18 school year.

This year, the program was expanded again to include all tenth graders, with eleventh and twelfth graders slated to complete the rollout in 2020 and 2021, respectively. Students in grades 3-5 have access to Chromebooks that are stored in carts and shared between classrooms, but do not take the devices home.

“Chromebooks are perfect for school projects, accessing educational applications and websites, and even completing state-required online testing,” McDaniel said. “Providing every student with access to a Chromebook prepares our students for twenty-first century learning, increases student engagement, and enhances collaboration between students and their teachers.”

Chromebooks are easy to manage, cost-effective, and compatible with the Google suite of education apps that the district has used for the past seven-plus years. Last year, BGPS was recognized as a Google Reference District for demonstrating excellence and leadership through the innovative use of technology to drive impact and positive learning outcomes.

In support of the 1:1 initiative, the technology department has placed an emphasis on demonstrating to teachers how to best incorporate technology into their daily lessons. Cassondra Smith, herself a classroom teacher before becoming the district’s Educational Technology Coordinator and a Google Certified Trainer, knows that staff professional development is key to taking full advantage of technological capabilities when it comes to student learning.

“Our teachers are using technology to redefine their lessons, provide timely feedback for students, and to foster a collaborative and globally-minded classroom,” Smith said.

Now that BGPS teachers have had a few years to get fully acquainted with Chromebooks as a regular part of the classroom environment, Smith and the rest of the technology department are working with teachers who want to become Google Certified, an accomplishment that signifies a teacher has achieved proficiency using the full suite of Google apps for education.

“With students having equitable access to technology and teachers well-equipped to take advantage of the available technological capabilities, Battle Ground is poised to accelerate learning by integrating technology into the classroom in authentic ways,” McDaniel said.