The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), tech company VMware and nonprofit Team4Tech announced a partnership this week with the goal of supplying and creating new technological resources for rural school districts.
The organizations have three collective goals: establish a solid and sustainable technical infrastructure, provide teachers and educators with adequate preparation and instruction, and work with administrators to adopt a plan for sustained technological success.
The partnership “seeks to help educators in rural school systems on steps to successfully leverage technology to better personalize learning and prepare their students for today’s digital world,” according to a statement from CoSN.
To help kick off the initiative, officials from CoSN, Team4Tech and VMware traveled to rural western Utah last week to facilitate a one-to-one program that will equip each of Millard School District's 3,000 students with a Google Chromebook.
“[CoSN and partners] are working very hard on our infrastructure — their engineers have redone our networks, they’ve helped us with grants from Dell to increase the quality of the equipment that we have ... and they’ve put together a network that will serve us for many years and be able to carry all of the devices and traffic that we’re going to need,” Dave Styler, superintendent of Millard School District, told EdScoop.
Beyond the technical side of things, the teachers and leaders within the district have also seen growth through the initiative, Styler said.
"We have about 27 teacher initiators who began work a year ago, and we funded them to start making digital lesson plans, to start researching the best practices from other districts and to start putting this thing together. The Team4Tech ... they’re giving [our teachers] a whole overview of what technology can do for students," he said. "Those initiators, after working with the Team4Tech and VMware folks last week ... will be training the rest of our teachers to get excited and motivated to use the technology."
Millard School District presented an opportunity for CoSN to assist with both technological and instructional efforts in a rural district, creating an environment that can be replicated across the country, said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN. Twenty-eight percent of all public schools are rural, and 25 percent of students in rural schools are in poverty — 4 percent more than in non-rural schools, according to a Future Ready Schools report.
"We have lots of resources for all districts, but we haven't always contextualized that with how to do that in a rural setting," Krueger told EdScoop. "This is the first district that we are documenting how the transformation happens."
"We'll be partnering with Team4Tech in identifying other districts over the next three to five years, and we'll be taking those case studies and creating more generic tools and templates for all districts to use," he added.
The collaboration also included the Utah Education and Telehealth Network, the Utah State Board of Education, Utah State University, the Southwest Educational Development Center (SEDC) and Canvas, a learning management system.