Each summer, as students and staff head out to start their summer adventures, a flurry of activity begins at Bellingham Public Schools. This July, we kicked off a series of technology investments supporting teaching and learning in Bellingham schools. Since January, we've worked together to commence a comprehensive refresh of our technology systems, guided by the vision and goals of The Bellingham Promise, Bellingham Public Schools' strategic plan. The district values "a one schoolhouse approach," which means we provide an equitable distribution of resources and services to ensure excellence for all. We want every student to have access to what they need to be successful every day.
Supporting technology in our schools, from staffing to hardware, wouldn't be possible without the technology levy approved by Bellingham voters. Washington's basic education funding isn't enough to maintain the thousands of computers, software titles and personnel to deliver a top-quality technology-rich education. Tack on new curriculum, online classes and increasing assessment requirements and the importance of having fast, responsive and reliable technology systems comes into focus. As these systems age and fail, funding from the technology levy allows replacement of computers, and upgrading critical infrastructure, which ensures our schools are relevant and engaging to today's learner.
In our tech-dependent world, ensuring students have access to computers is only part of the equation. It's critical to engage students using technology and help teachers teach with new digital tools, inspiring students' interests and passions in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math, commonly referred to as STEM. A recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates jobs in STEM-related fields growing by 1 million positions between 2012 and 2022. Other research ranks knowledge of computer-based productivity tools within the top three skills people need to be competitive in today's workforce. Technology can inspire and engage students in their learning, preparing them with the skills they need to be successful. The Bellingham Promise calls out our commitment to develop students and graduates who are well-rounded community members engaged with the broader world, critical thinkers and problem-solvers, and skilled users of technology and information. Getting our students engaged with technology helps put the promise into action.
In January, Bellingham Public Schools kicked off some behind-the-scenes projects, improving our school network systems and ensuring our readiness for an influx of new systems. Network systems were enhanced and speeds upgraded, wireless networks were replaced and software was upgraded. In April, working with school leaders, we planned our first wave of student computer upgrades, which are ready for the first day of school; over 800 new systems will be in the hands of our kids this September. Add to that upgraded software, cloud-based email, collaboration tools through Office 365 and even more tools just around the corner. In short, it's been a busy summer!
Computers and networks aren't the only things being renewed. This September we will move forward to the next wave of upgrades for our teachers and staff. In addition to computer upgrades, we'll be working together to establish a district-wide standard for classroom instructional technology. From projection tools to interactive technologies, audio enhancement to instructional platforms, we'll evaluate the latest tools to help teachers engage with our students, inspire their curiosity and activate a love of learning. These new classroom standards will be implemented in all our schools across the district throughout the remaining years of the levy. Bellingham represents one schoolhouse, and we will make sure every student and every teacher has access to great resources to inspire learning.
NOT JUST COMPUTERS
Along with the tools to support students and their teachers, your levy also provides help to maintain and train on new technologies. This September, in addition to our fantastic cadre of employees providing technical support, staff will be joining our team whose sole focus is to integrate technology into instruction. Brian Pahl, most recently from Sunnyland Elementary, will help teachers throughout the district integrate new technologies into their instruction, helping engage and inspire our students.
All of this is in process, and there's still more to do. It's exciting to see the opportunities the technology levy brings to the students of Bellingham, especially as the fruits of that investment appear in our schools in the hands of our students and teachers. We look forward to another exciting year at Bellingham Public Schools, as we use technology to inspire a new generation of learners and leaders.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kurt Gazow is executive director of technology for Bellingham Public Schools.