Hamilton schools attempt to close technology gap - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Hamilton schools attempt to close technology gap

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - At a time when technology advances are measured in months, not years, it's harder than ever for schools to keep up.  

Last year's hot new devices are already being upgraded or replaced. 

How can Hamilton County schools ensure all students have access to the tools and knowledge they'll need in the future?  

It's a technology gap that's increasingly hard to close.

At Woodmore Elementary School, grant money allows fourth graders to work out problems on their own iPads.   

At the new Red Bank Middle, Title I money helps provide big screen TV monitors and school-wide Wi-Fi in every classroom.

But at Soddy-Daisy High School, a lack of outside funding results in every spare dollar going towards used and refurbished computers, as they just try to keep up.

Principal Danny Gilbert stays positive, crediting his staff and students for keeping scores high. But his is one of several schools on the short end of up-to-date technology.   He knows closing the gap won't be easy.

"I'm not embarrassed about it" he said. "We just have to figure out a way to raise our own money."

State mandates now require online testing, basically phasing out pencils and paper.   Schools like Soddy-Daisy have to float dual enrollment students in and out of a single computer lab. There just isn't enough to go around.

Red Bank Middle principal John Pierce and his students have experienced the highs, and the lows. Until last year, they were at the bottom of the barrel, in an old building, with inadequate wiring. Now, they're at the top.

Pierce is quick to say, however, that new technology isn't valuable unless teachers know how to use it.   School Board technology chairman Jonathan Welch emphasizes the importance of training, which also requires money.

School officials have advocated for an additional four million dollars annually to fund new teachers, training, and technicians, but have so far been unsuccessful. They say until the county puts more money into technology, the gap between the haves and have nots will remain. Welch said, "We're trying to work on it. It's a slow process, but we're headed in the right direction."

For now, the school district has completed step one: they've boosting the bandwidth and WiFi in every school. They're also working with various clubs and foundations to obtain iPads and other tablets for as many students as possible.

School Patrol

David Carroll covers education news and issues at schools across the Tennessee Valley.


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