The Smart Schools Bond Act (SSBA) was passed in the 2014-15 Enacted NYS Budget and approved by the voters in a statewide referendum held during the 2014 General Election. The SSBA authorized the issuance of $2 billion of general obligation bonds to finance improved educational technology and infrastructure to enhance learning and opportunity for students throughout NYS.
The SSBA requires that each Smart Schools Investment Plan (SSIP) submitted by a school district be thoroughly reviewed and approved by the Smart Schools Review Board prior to a school district bidding, contracting, or expending any SSBA funds. The West Genesee School District SSIP was submitted in April 2016 and was approved on July 14, 2017.
As soon as the District SSIP was approved, an order for 3,641 Chromebooks was placed and they arrived ready for deployment on August 14, 2017. The District Technology Department, in collaboration with Building and Grounds, then deployed 2,891 Chromebooks as part of the initial phase of the project.
The decisions of what grade levels would receive the hardware were based on the SAMR Model for integrating technology into teaching, developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, that has gained a good deal of exposure in recent years. “SAMR” is an acronym that stands for Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition.
Coordinator of Instructional Technology Training, Rob Leo, has created a professional development program for teachers based on the SAMR model called “Teach Above the Line”. This course takes the teachers through a collaborative process by which they learn to transform a traditional lesson plan through meaningful instructional technology integration based on the SAMR hierarchy. They learn how to leverage appropriate instructional technology tools and teaching strategies to deploy their lesson to their students.
Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Christopher Brown, shared that “The purpose of infusing more technology into classrooms is to balance good teaching with engagement tools that students are familiar with outside of school.”
The remaining hardware will be deployed as teachers learn to transform their teaching and their students’ learning through the implementation of technology. Based on that plan, teachers have begun submitting proposals for access to additional class sets of chromebooks which is the next phase of this project.
When asked why Chromebooks were chosen instead of traditional laptops, Director of Technology, Bill Roberge, answered, “As West Genesee is a Google G Suite District that already utilizes web-based instructional materials, Chromebooks are a natural fit in this environment. They are more cost effective than purchasing a full-fledged laptop, the battery lasts all day, there is no time for boot up, and they are very easy to maintain so we can deploy numerous devices without having to increase support staff.”