Contact: Ayanna Smith, (202) 724-5178
WASHINGTON, DC—Today District of Columbia Mayor Adrian Fenty and Interim District Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Chris Willey announced that the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) will deploy a variety of advanced technologies at the District’s Coolidge and Dunbar senior high schools.
At the request of District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) Chancellor Michelle Rhee, OCTO has served as DCPS’ information technology (IT) department for the last two years. OCTO has overhauled DCPS networks, security, and classroom PCs, automated DCPS’ massive personnel system, helped design and build new instructional and management systems, and established four high-tech campuses in District schools. Now OCTO will step in to help DCPS confront one of its biggest challenges: turning the failing Coolidge and Dunbar high schools around. The two schools are subject to federally mandated restructuring under the No Child Left Behind Act because of persistent failure to meet annual achievement benchmarks.
Using donated equipment, OCTO will equip each school with state-of-the-art technologies that give teachers an entire new toolkit to make learning more engaging and exciting.
OCTO will set up 500 laptops with Evolution Data Optimized (EVDO) data access for all 9th-graders at both Coolidge and Dunbar. Each student can use the laptop to follow the teacher’s lessons, to work on homework and in-class assignments, to connect to the Internet for research, and to do interactive web-based lessons and projects that were never possible before. DCPS teachers can use new interactive learning curricula to make the most of the new computers.
In addition to using the laptops at school, each student will be able to earn the right to take the laptop home by executing and fulfilling a contract to maintain the laptop’s security. With their portable laptops, the students will not only have an easier and more exciting time doing their homework. They will also be able to share their computer skills and Internet access with their whole families, leveraging the donated equipment and expanding technology access to entire communities that have little or none.
In addition to allowing students to do their homework online, the laptops will enable students to communicate with teachers electronically and to access a vast array of digital learning content anywhere, anytime. Much of the digital learning can be self-paced, so that each student can progress at his or her own most comfortable rate. Slower learners can take the time they need to grasp the content of each lesson—truly fulfilling the objective, “no child left behind.”
OCTO will also install 115 digital whiteboards for all classrooms at Coolidge and Dunbar so that students can learn in a fully digital environment—including video, pictures, sound, and interaction with teachers, other students and guides on virtual field trips across the globe. With the digital whiteboards at Coolidge and Dunbar, OCTO and DCPS hope to replicate the successes digital whiteboards have produced at the four high-tech classrooms—higher student engagement and better attendance as a result.
“My administration is committed to using technology to drive innovation in all government services,” said Mayor Fenty. “Education is one of our most critical services, and one where technology can make a big difference, right away,”
OCTO’s technology upgrade at Coolidge and Dunbar also includes email accounts, digital storage “lockers,” digital content, and data access for all teachers, students and parents. Each student will get an email account and online storage so they can communicate with teachers anytime, anywhere and collaborate with their peers in project-based learning. The new email system will also allow teachers to communicate regularly with parents and engage them in their children’s learning and academic progress.
OCTO enlisted District technology partners, including Verizon, Cisco, Promethean, Signature Technologies, eChalk, K12, and Hewlett Packard, to donate equipment for the Coolidge-Dunbar technology upgrade to Friends of Bedford, the schools’ non-profit turnaround partner. In addition, Friends of Bedford obtained donations from non-profit foundations to cover some costs of the technology project. OCTO served as a strategic technology advisor to the decision-makers guiding the turnaround effort.
“With these new technologies, we’re aiming to make learning more exciting for students, and equally to engage their families,” said Friends of Bedford chief George Leonard. “We’ll see the biggest gains if both students and their families are active participants in the learning process and the turnaround projects at these schools.”
To support the new digital learning technologies, OCTO deployed dual band Wi-Fi and Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) at both schools to make all areas of both schools fully Internet-accessible, expand calling options with features like call routing and hunting, and greatly reduce telecommunications costs.
OCTO will not only install the new technologies at Coolidge and Dunbar, it will provide ongoing maintenance, support, and training through its central Program Management Office. Each teacher, administrator and student at both schools will have a local OCTO contact who is responsible for coordinating all OCTO support services and ensuring that each problem is resolved promptly. The on-site OCTO personnel will be trained in all the classroom technologies and will help teachers and students learn how to make the most of them.
“Thanks to the hard work of OCTO staff and the generosity of our technology partners, we’re integrating some of the most effective technology tools into the Coolidge-Dunbar turnaround project,” said Interim District CTO Willey. “With these new technologies, we can not only enable our students to perform better academically, but also help them enjoy learning much more.”