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August 14, 2014
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Nevada Union High School sees tech upgrades for the new school year

Nevada Union High School will be implementing new technology upgrades this school year to foster communication and collaboration between staff members, and to equip students with modern learning tools to reach their academic goals.

“We want our students to be prepared for what they’re going to enter into once they leave high school,” Principal Dan Frisella said.

“Just about every college is using some sort of academic managing system, whether it be Blackboard Connect, or Schoology. It’s basically the way the world is doing business today as well. So we’re trying to get students ready for college and career, and these give us an opportunity to use the tools that they’re going to encounter.”

Frisella said on July 1, NU became a Google campus after converting all staff emails to Gmail, making it easier for educators to communicate and share information through Google drive and docs.

“For all of our facilities work this year, we’ve got a shared document that we’re using,” Frisella said. “A teacher makes a request to our assistant principal of facilities, and she’s got a doc that’s a running list of those requests.

So instead of receiving 16 individual emails a day, or being handed a piece of paper, they have a live up-to-speed document that is real time and they have access to (it) from anywhere because it goes through the Google cloud.”

To reduce the use of classroom materials, students have also been given their own Gmail accounts to make it easier for staff to communicate with them. Teachers will also be implementing the use of Schoology, an online learning management system that makes it easier to create and share academic documents with students and parents.

Schoology’s main components give students and parents access to online grading rubrics, calendars, tests and class discussion. Frisella says Schoology will encourage collaborative work and improve communication between educators and parents.

“Schoology is like Facebook for schools, that’s the easiest way to describe it,” Frisella said. “You’re just sending parents this code that gives them access to this class, and then they can send teachers a message, or teachers can post an update that all parents and students and coworkers can view.”

According to Frisella, Schoology is currently accessible to all staff, but its implementation will be transitional as teachers are still learning how to fully utilize it.

“It’s a really high-powered tool and we’re just getting out of the gates with it,” Frisella said.

“So it’s not going to be a blanket, every parent can expect to see every one of their students courses on Schoology right now, but we have 40 people attend the training we held in August, and those guys were excited, because there’s many different components of the program, and they’ve been invited to bite off one at a time.”

Nevada Joint Union High School District Director of Technology Bob Lyons has been a driving force in the technological upgrades that NU, and schools district-wide, are making this year, and says that the district’s goal is to build an infrastructure that will allow each campus to be a one-to-one campus where every student will be issued their own mobile devices for their academic needs.

“All of the schools will be using Schoology and Google, and with that move to Gmail allows students email access, and we’re also giving them access to a filtered YouTube,” Lyons said. “All the Khan Academy programs, and other educational material, those are all on YouTube and Google. So they will have access to all these great resources.”

Lyons says through a grant NU received 200 Chromebooks, 160 of which will be used in a pilot program with the school’s Partnership Academy. The additional 40 Chromebooks will be available for students to check out from the school’s library.

There will also be 100 Chromebox desktop computers distributed district-wide, and 40 of those will be used at NU.

“We upgraded the library software, so now it will allow us to check out e-books to students,” Lyons said. “We replaced all of the wireless access points. I’ve got 120 of them and I’m doing them all myself. I’m working on NU now, and it will be all of the latest and greatest technology. We have new switches, and all of the core computer lab switches have been replaced.”

Lyons said Wi-Fi access on NU’s campus will be 10 times faster then it used to be, and added they have fixed the school’s cable system to allow students to once again do local broadcasts. NU and Bear River High School will also be using new high-end video computers to use for multi-media classes.

“A lot of the funding comes from the state for implementing these new state standards,” Lyons said. “This is a huge impact, in my mind we were behind the past seven years and nothing was really upgraded. Meanwhile technology has just taken off, so what we’re doing is catching up to where we should be, and we’re moving the students into the 21st century, so that’s our intent — to deliver a high-powered curriculum and get these students to live in the 21st century.”

To bring staff up to speed on the new upgrades, Frisella said they will continue to hold trainings in both Schoology and Google tools.

“We’re giving people the tools, and it’s going to improve all of the communication components, so it’s in line with our WASC goals, it’s in line with my personal goals, and it’s what’s been done out there,” Frisella said. “It’s what 21st century schools look like, and we’re trying to move in that direction.”

To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email inatividad@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.


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The Union Updated Aug 14, 2014 01:01AM Published Aug 15, 2014 10:34PM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.