It’s the first day of school in the Wrangell School District, and about 312 students are headed back to class. This year, the students will encounter major technological upgrades. District Superintendent Rich Rhodes said that they’ve quadrupled the schools’ bandwidth allowing for much faster internet access. The speed is necessary now that every classroom is equipped with new interactive Smart Board technology that replaces a traditional whiteboard with a giant computer touch screen. Additionally, each of the middle school students will be issued a laptop to use at school, just as the high schoolers have.
“What’s happening is that kids are using mobile technology with their phones and their iPads, and it’s just really taking off,” Rhodes said. “And what we’re finding is that kids need to be able to do research and need to be able to write their projects… It seems like the productivity when kids can have that mobile technology to interface in their learning environment, time on task [improves]…I think engagement is the key. And it’s their world already.”
The middle schoolers are using the high school student’s old laptops. They got an upgrade. The Macintosh computers and the school network are monitored. The school administration can limit access to certain sites and see what students are connecting to.
The school will also be focusing on new curriculum development this year to meet new state standards.
“Alaska has adopted new content standards for mathematics and language arts, and so we’re going to be changing some of the things we’ve been teaching, some adjustments. Some things are going to have more rigor and some things at different grade levels will have to be taught differently,” he said.
Rhodes also invited community members to participate in upcoming committees that will revise the science, physical education, and vocational education curriculums.
State testing reports also show that Wrangell’s students are progressing well. Proficiency percentage rates for all of the schools were in the 80s and 90s, some of the highest scores the state. The only drop was in high school math proficiency down to 54 percent. Rhodes said they are addressing the issue.