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Teachers can see what students see

Terry Miller, director of technology and information systems for Fayette County School Corporation, discusses technology updateswith the school board on Tuesday evening.

By KATE THURSTON - kthurston@newsexaminer.com

Teachers in Fayette County public schools can now monitor what their students are viewing on their school computers.

“For the first time, we now know how these devices are being used,” Terry Miller, director of technology and information systems for Fayette County School Corp., said.

About 1,000 Chromebooks have been issued to students since August. The high school retired its iPads after five years of service

Speaking to the school board Tuesday, Miller continued, “Today, there were 824 users out of all the Chromebooks provided. That is good, this is the first evidence we have in how they are being used for educational purposes. Although every student wasn’t using them, it could have been because of absence or for students who go half day.”

Most of the students are using the Chromebooks for education. There are a few cases where students try to get into blocked sites. 

“The teachers have access to something called Relay Classroom. Teachers can look at what students are looking at on their Chromebooks, look at what they’re searching activity is, lock them into a website, look at their screen and see what they are doing and provide management to make sure they are on task,” Miller explained.

“We opted to move to Chromebooks, we distributed 950 of them in about 45 minutes on the first day of school. We have about 1,000 Chromebooks available at the high school,” Miller said.

Miller went on to discuss internet throughout the schools.

“Out network growth since 2012, our internet was 30 meg (megabytes) per second, supporting over 3,800 students. The elementary connection only had 3 meg and Middle School only had 100 meg connection. That was costing us over $3,000 a month,” he said.

Since then, the school corporation has increased internet bandwidth.

“Last year we moved to 1 GB connection, upgraded all elementary to 500 meg connection and middle school to 1 GB. In 2017, I brought to the board $420,000 in funding we received from the E-Rate Program. We are in a five year cycle, we can’t pursue E-Rate again until 2023,” he said.

E-Rate funding is based on free and reduced participation in the lunch program. An association called State Educational Technology Directors Association said schools should have 100 meg of bandwidth for every 1,000 users.

“In 2014, we were 150 meg when in theory we should’ve been at 400 meg. We progressed to the point where we were getting close to that number. In 2017-18, we were sitting at 300 meg and the association said we should have 1 gig for every 1,000 users. We look at today, we are at 1 gig, we should be looking at technology that is four times greater than what we currently have,” he said.

Miller said that 293 Indiana school districts file an annual tech plan. Of those who filed, only 16 are above 1 gig.

“We are in the pool of the 277,” he said. “That puts us at 250 meg per 1,000 users. We are in the middle of the pack. The E-rate fund helped us raise our capacity.”