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GCPS Phasing In All-Digital Classrooms

eCLASS to begin pilot program in the fall in the state's largest system.

Next on the technology hit list: school textbooks. Just ask the Gwinnett County school system.

It's "pretty much the goal" for textbooks to become a thing of the past, according to GCPS Chief Information Officer Scott Futrell, who briefed school board members on the eCLASS initiative at a recent work session.

Not only does the system want to keep student instruction from falling behind, but the technology initiative would be cost-effective, board members were told.

The current textbook model "is not working," school system Chief Financial Officer Rick Cost said. He noted that the system has not funded texbook adoption in the past three years for budget reasons; it normally would run $25-30 million annually.

"Technology is not inexpensive," Cost said, but he said that eCLASS would lower overall cost, increase return on investment and increase student achievement.

By the time the system goes through textbook adoption, a lot of that information is outdated, officials noted.

This fall, the GCPS, the state's largest system with 162,000 students, will begin a pilot program for eCLASS in six schools: two high schools, two middle schools and two elementary schools (none have been announced). The complete rollout is expected to take three to five years.

Access would be through a single portal, and content would be "agnostic," Futrell said, meaning that it could be taken not only from GCPS curriculum but outside sources, such as NASA or a university.

"We will be housing the cloud," Futrell said.

Board members like the idea. Without eCLASS, "we'd be left behind," Louise Radloff said.

Bo George July 26, 2011 at 12:20 PM
Gwinnett County will be like many others around the country if they go "cold turkey" into this. Are they considering what grade levels in which to begin this pilot? Are they considering the nearly 30% annual maintenence fee that other districts have absorbed with this "less expensive" venture? Are the parents willing to have their students be "guinea pigs" for 3-5 years and possibly be behind even further from national averages? Technology should SUPPLEMENT textbooks, not replace them. And, there where it is feasible to omit textbooks, we should be very careful of the grade level and age of the learner.
Annette Rogers July 26, 2011 at 01:23 PM
I saw the e-class presentation and my concern is for those students/schools that have limited access to a computer. There is already such a difference in achievement rates (graduation, retention, test scores . . .) between socio-economic groups and I don't see e-class being able to provide an equal education to those that do not have equal income/resources. Will GCPS now promote "virtual" segregation?
Steve Burns (Editor) July 26, 2011 at 01:42 PM
Annette, we are attempted to address the access issue. Stay tuned.
Raven Nichols July 26, 2011 at 01:50 PM
Let's give 'em all a Kindle and be done with it! :) On one hand, I share Annette's concerns. My daughter is a middle schooler, and already a large percentage of her homework requires a computer with internet access. I asked her what kids who don't have those things at home do, and she said their parents have to take them to the county library so they can do their homework. I'm looking forward to seeing the resolution to that issue. On the other hand, I would be THRILLED to ditch those giant textbooks. My tiny girl is going to develop a stooped posture from lugging those suckers around. It's a changing world, and I'm proud to see GCPS taking the leap to catch up to modern technology. As long as it's accessible to all the students, I think this is a fantastic change to make.
Annette Rogers July 26, 2011 at 02:16 PM
Steve, I sent an e-mail to Louise Radloff regarding e-class and another concern/idea she mentioned regarding HOPE extension from 4 - 7 years allowed to use funding. She had asked why that was not considered for high school students that only have a summer after their 4th year to successfully graduate. The economic situation was the primary reason mentioned for the HOPE extension since fewer students (parents) can afford to attend full-time. In regards to e-class, I wondered why students could not elect to "spread out" their course load especially in the subject(s), that have a high "fail" rate like math. This way, they could schedule on-line time during the traditional school day to take advantage of resources available at the school and the only method of transportation that may be available to them . . . the big yellow one. Some kids are too far to walk to the library and the hours are limited. I've seen a student cry because she had missed the bus and didn't have a way home. (A taxi was called and the fare was paid, but it was still an "educating" moment for me.) So, yes, I would love to hear how GCPS plans to address the access concerns.
Steve Burns (Editor) July 26, 2011 at 02:23 PM
Annette, when we know more, we'll pass it along.

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