Students in Rebecca Jaunais’ marketing class sit at their desks during the first day of school at Buford High School on Thursday in Buford. The Buford School District spent the summer upgrading most of the high schools infrastructure. One of those upgrades included the providing new computers in the school’s computer labs and handheld devices such as iPad Minis to teachers. (Staff Photo: David Welker)
Buford City Schools Back in Session
Buford High School Principal, Dr. Banks Bitterman, talks about having the students back in the building and how technology helps in their success.
Buford City Schools begin classes
Buford City Schools started the 2013-14 school year on Thursday as students and teachers were introduced to several technology upgrades since last school year.
BUFORD — The old jalopy has been traded in for a shiny new sports car.
Buford City Schools opened the 2013-14 school year on Thursday with the unveiling of new and upgraded technology across the district, which ranged from Internet speeds that are more than three times faster than last year, to more than 500 iPad minis at Buford High School, interactive whiteboards, a projector and ceiling-mounted speaker system in each classroom.
The district also recently switched its email from Microsoft Exchange to Google, which features built-in disaster recovery.
In some cases, the equipment was 10 or more years old, and in other ways it’s an update to the ever-changing intersection of curriculum and technology in an increasingly on-demand world.
“It’s like an old car, 200,000 miles, 300,000 miles,” said Jason Downs, the district’s director of technology, “it’s working OK, but at some point it’s going to die. Do you want to risk it dying during the year, or do you want to replace it and go ahead and get something nice?”
All 68 teachers at the high school received new laptops, and the district also replaced older iPods and original iPads that had grown obsolete. The district also put in a new content filter to catch or block inappropriate material, and virtualized all of its servers.
All students from second grade through high school also have an email address.
“Really the new shift in technology is getting it in the hands of students and teachers. Information to them on demand as much as possible,” Downs said. “To do that, we had to upgrade both the Internet and the network.”
Buford High Principal Banks Bitterman called the new and improved technology another resource to engage students.
“You take the standards we already have and it gives us another way to get those standards to the kids,” said Bitterman, who started his sixth year in Buford. “The addition of all technology in the building is going to give us the ability to provide those kids more resources to ensure that they learn what they need to learn to be successful in life.”
Ninth-grade students Logan Orr and Palalya Neish were each nervous about the start of school, particularly as new high school students, but looked forward to using the technology. Orr said doing an assignment on a tablet and sending it to his teacher would avoid forgetting a paper at home.
“There’s more classes than there were (in middle school) and it’s more spread out,” Orr said. “But the environment is really good around here, and we’re all Buford family.”
Rebecca Jaunais, in her first year teaching in Buford, said teachers were amazed by the new technology, and she looked forward to uploading tests and assignments for students to access online.
In Jaunais’ classroom where she teaches marketing, students sat in front of new Mac desktop computers.
“I think they’ll be more anxious and more excited about being able to use it,” she said. “The majority of core classes they use pen and pencil, so coming to this class is going to give them a break from (traditional methods).”
Another benefit of the new email service with Google is more space per user, and teachers can collaborate by sharing files and information between storage spaces, Downs said.
A long-term possibility for technology is a device in each students’ hand, or more investments in a Bring Your Own Device program, Downs said. But timing to implement hasn’t been decided yet, while content management and learning management systems are also being discussed.
“With technology, you can really dictate and orient the curriculum for each student if they have technology in their hand,” Downs said.
With summer over, a routine is starting anew, and that includes plenty of change, especially in the realm of technology.
“We could not be more excited to have these students back in the building,” Bitterman said. “All summer we’ve worked to prepare for the students, and as much as I do enjoy the summer, it’s all about kids. What makes this job worth it, is the kids we have in the building. To have them here going from class to class smiling, excited to be at Buford High School, it just doesn’t get any better.”