Technology Audit Sparks Changes in How an Illinois School District Uses Technology

Teutopolis Unit 50 schools are making learning more interactive and upgrading technology infrastructure.

by Bill Grimes, Effingham Daily News, Ill. / July 21, 2015
Students in a Texas school district will be able to interact more with their learning thanks to a little push from audit results. Kevin Jarrett, Flickr CC by 2.0

(TNS) — When Jeannie Gaddis began teaching in Teutopolis nine years ago, she didn't incorporate a lot of technology into her third-grade classroom.

"We might have gone to the computer lab once a week," Gaddis said. "We didn't have either smartboards or projectors."

Times have changed.

Gaddis, a junior high language-arts teacher at Teutopolis Junior High School, regularly incorporates technology into her classroom. She's one of several Google Certified teachers in the district. As such, she is well-qualified to speak about "Techtopolis" — the districtwide technology initiative that grew out of a 2014 technology audit. The audit showed that Unit 50 schools were not using classroom technology to its fullest advantage.

"It was about how teachers were using it with students, as well as a couple of technical things we had to deal with," said Unit 50 technology director Doug Runde. Those technical issues included improvements to wireless infrastructure, computer networks and increasing bandwidth.

The overall goal of the Techtopolis program is to make Google Chromebooks available to all Unit 50 students in grades two through 12 by the 2016-17 school year.

The first 275 Chromebooks — a smaller version of the laptop — were used during the 2014-15 school year, with another 400 ready for issue in the upcoming school year. The final 350 are scheduled to be issued during the 2016-17 school year.

Runde said one result of the audit was to make Unit 50 teachers more technology-friendly. He said the impact of that has been fun to watch.

"It's really cool seeing the ways teachers use technology," Runde said. "In the past, a lot of teachers wanted me to show them how to do things. Now they are finding out their own way to do things.

"They are doing things I never thought they would," he added.

Gaddis said the school district's decision to use the Google suite of products made it easier to incorporate technology into the classroom.

"It was easier than using all the different items from those companies," she said.

Gaddis said using the Chromebooks empowers her students.

"When kids are using Chromebooks it's more student-led," Gaddis said. "They are all teaching each other.

"It's hard for a teacher to give up her control, but a lot more learning gets done," she added. "People are used to listening to teachers in the classroom.

"Now, the kids are up moving around and up in front. Their excitement has increased 100 percent. It's awesome. I think that's what got other teachers on board."

"It's kind of been a snowball effect," added Runde.

Techtopolis — a term coined by Justin Fleener's high school science students — has enjoyed broad community support. Corporate donors have included Stevens Industries, Martin's IGA, Teutopolis Community for Progress, Teutopolis State Bank, Prudential Financial, Siemer Milling and HSHS St. Anthony's Memorial Hospital. 

©2015 the Effingham Daily News (Effingham, Ill.), distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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