Education column: Changing technology means new challenges

Before long, students will be heading back to school.

Looking once more at the work being handled through our operations department in preparation for the return of school staff and students, it remains astonishing to discover what all is accomplished over the summer.

Before teachers can teach and students can learn, there must be some certainty that this core purpose of our public schools occurs in a learning environment not only structurally safe and sound, but also adequately equipped with the currently used resources needed for learning to take place.

Fortunately, within the CMS Operations Department, there is skilled staff to serve the needs. Ronnie Anaya, physical plant coordinator, in describing the work CMS maintenance staff has been handling this summer, could not rave enough about the quality of staff members.

"With Andrea (Jacoby), our maintenance secretary, as our backbone," Anaya said, "With electricians, carpenters, heating/ventilation/air conditioning (HVAC) specialists, plumbers, grounds personnel, roofers, painters, mechanics, irrigation/preventive maintenance personnel, and the distribution services at the warehouse, the maintenance department sounds like a self-contained company within the district."

The difference between a company offering all those services and a department within the district is the sheer amount of work that takes place with the staff available. Anaya, who monitors work flow and work loads with specialized software, was able to translate to real-world terms: "With our staff of about 24 personnel, they cover approximately 1,581,000 square feet, which includes 44 concrete floor buildings and 50 portables (not including recent new additions). This translates to each maintenance staff member being responsible for approximately 34 homes of 2,000 square feet each."

In addition to the standard tasks, this day and age of technological advances brings with it classroom features that include more than just four walls, a ceiling, and electricity for sufficiently lighting a classroom. Increasingly, advanced technology features have become standard classroom fare to compliment and enhance learning.

For example, the old overhead projectors, with their bent necks that illuminated whatever had been transferred to a transparency sheet, have been replaced with more modern tools. Among these are digital projectors, now standard classroom equipment, connected with appropriate adapters to desktop computers, laptop computers, iPads, document cameras, digitally interactive or other devices; or…all of the above, simultaneously.

With this example alone, it must be decided whether devices are mounted on the ceiling or if mobile carts are to be used. Is the electricity adequate for electrical and/or video lines? Perhaps additional breakers must be considered if a classroom is to accommodate extra computers; and/or carpentry and painting is required to accommodate new installation.

Classrooms vary as well, and a single solution is not necessarily viable for all classrooms. An increasing number of classrooms contain interactive whiteboards, replacing the older whiteboards that use dry erase pens or chalkboards. These use electricity and network connectivity, with all that entails.

It's exhausting to consider it all, and school has not yet begun.

Cindy Kleyn-Kennedy is the instructional technology coordinator for the Clovis Municipal Schools and can be reached at:

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