County Schools Launch Comprehensive Instructional Technology Initiative

County Schools Launch Comprehensive Instructional Technology Initiative
Over the next twelve months, the Thomas County School System will deploy the most comprehensive technology integration program since the Internet came to the classroom two decades ago.
Most classrooms in the school system will receive an interactive white board, known as a SmartBoard, a wall mounted data/video projector, a document camera, and other supporting technology.
Teachers will also receive extensive professional development in the use of instructional technology to promote student engagement and student achievement.
The system recently drafted a three-year technology plan that includes a complete overhaul of the system’s instructional technology program.
An interactive computer-based foreign language lab was installed at Thomas County Central High School last spring, and plans are underway to install a similar lab at Thomas County Middle School this fall to support the system’s expanded middle school foreign language program.
The system is also equipping a science classroom at Thomas County Central High School to connect directly to Georgia Tech as part of the Direct to Discovery Program which allows high school students to work with Georgia Tech professors and graduate students on advanced research projects.
“Providing students the opportunity to interact with University professors helps raise students’ aspirational levels as they begin to realize the exciting work that scientists and engineers do. We are delighted to be able to provide this experience for our students,” said Superintendent Dusty Kornegay.
In addition to these new technology initiatives, many aging computers within the system will be replaced or upgraded, system-wide wireless service will be provided, and the technology infrastructure will be modernized.
Technology is opening new doors for many special needs students in the Thomas County School System.
“One of the most exciting technology initiatives underway in the system is the expansion of adaptive technology for special needs students,” said Kornegay.
The E-SPLOST referendum approved by Thomas County voters last year is funding adaptive equipment and technology for special needs students
“We are just in the very beginning stages of the development and implementation of a comprehensive adaptive technology program, but we are already seeing remarkable progress with speech students and children who are autistic,” Kornegay said.
SPLOST funds have allowed the special education and assistive technology departments to purchase iPads with educational apps, iPod Touches, netbooks, and SmartBoards (interactive whiteboards).
Speech-Language Pathologist Trisha Taylor explained, “On the iPads, my students are viewing their speech productions via the video function. We love it. The kids can see/hear their good sounds and can now recognize when there are errors. The first exchange I tried shows a lateral view of the oral cavity and allows the students to view movements of the articulators for their various speech sounds. This is incredible as they can now see movements I could only describe in the past.”
For severely autistic people, communication is often impossible, leaving them unable to convey what they want or need. Touch-screen applications designed for tablet computers like the iPad are now giving autistic people new ways to express themselves, some for the first time.
Jay Myhre, Assistive Technology Specialist commented, “We have been able to use the smaller iPod Touches as communication devices for students who have become familiar with the communication app on the larger iPad. The smart phone sized Touches are small enough to be carried around so that these students have accessibility to communication everywhere they go.”
“We have only scratched the surface with what we can accomplish. We will continue to push the limits of new technology to make life better for our students who require a little more help than some of their classmates,” Myhre continued.

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