Good news on Friday, money on Monday

Nampa School District’s Stuart Vickers was officiating a Little League game when he got a text from Superintendent Tom Luna that said: “call me.”

Blackfoot School District’s Chad Struhs was volunteering at a running race in the deep mountains of Utah when he heard from Luna.

Post Falls School District’s Katrina Kelly was hosting a book club at her house when her phone rang.

Luna spent Friday night contacting 15 educators to tell them they’d won thousands of dollars to be used to increase opportunities for kids at their schools.

Katrina Kelly
Katrina Kelly of Post Falls School District

Those calls brought tears and cheers on Friday and all were in Boise on Monday to get their big checks, say thank you and share their innovative ideas that earned them the rare grant dollars. State Department of Education officials announced the 15 schools of the 99 that applied that will share $3 million in state funding to pilot technology programs. This is the pilot program’s second year.

“Thank you for being leaders and embracing the kind of change that’s necessary to implement these great ideas,” Luna said.

The winning ideas had a wide range of objectives:

  • South Middle School in Nampa intends to get parents more involved by having teachers video tape their lessons and putting the video on their website so parents can watch, learn and help their child in the evening. South Middle also will open their computer lab a couple nights a week so parents and students can work and learn together with the help of a teacher.
  • Ponderosa Elementary in Post Falls is putting its money toward games. Educators plan to ignite learning by capitalizing on students’ familiarity and interest with digital games and game mechanics. “It’s Game On,” said Kathy Baker representing Ponderosa. Students will earn badges for achievement and be able to “level up” in the classroom just like in computer gaming.
  • Centennial Elementary in Lewiston will invest in getting hands dirty and feet wet. The school will launch an initiative that “ brings the whole world into the classroom,” said Ronald Rees. He also said the community is stepping up to offer out-of-school learning experiences for students to “get dirty and wet” in real-world activities.
  • Fruitland Elementary conducted its own technology experiment and shared those outcomes in the grant application, impressing the judges. The data shared from the experiment indicated the students would thrive with iPads so 530 will now be purchased. “It was a very well-thought out grant application,” Luna said.
  • Meridian Technical Charter High will use its money specifically to help students who experience symptoms of Autism. “These students risk falling behind because of absences and this will really  help,” said counselor Mary Helen Green.

The common theme among the winners is that all have agreed to document the progress of their pilot programs and the outcomes and data will be shared with Idaho leaders – and interested schools wanting to replicate.

“We’re hoping to create a model that is sustainable and adopted,” said Cascade School District’s Chris Hinze. “This is a huge tipping point for us.”

Some of the pilot program numbers:

  • 99 schools applied and 15 were awarded a share of $3 million.
  • $516,619.36: The largest grant awarded to South Middle School in Nampa.
  • $14,835: The smallest grant awarded to Meridian Technical Charter High.
  • 2 percent of Idaho students will be impacted by the grant money.
  • 85: The number of schools that applied but were denied funding. “This was sweet for some and bitter for most. Obvious the demand is there and we need a statewide solution,” Luna said.

Here are short descriptions of all the winning technology pilot ideas:

Bickel Elementary School, Twin Falls School District: $168,377

Bickel Elementary School will supply every student in the school with a one to one mobile computing device. The school will utilize an ASUS Transformer Pad that has already been provided to teachers. The goal of the grant is to transition from a passive, teacher-led technology to a hands-on active learning approach.  Bickel has a high level of poverty (76%) and 9 different languages are spoken in the school.  The grant will fund $168,377 for devices, projectors and digital applications to support the use of the devices.

Cascade Jr. Sr. High School, Cascade School District:  $38,094

Cascade Jr. Sr. High School grant will focus on a tight integration of well-established and low cost technologies into a cohesive strategy for individualizing student learning.  The plan is to leverage Chromebooks with personally owned devices many students already use in order to breach the digital divide in Cascade and reach a 1:1 environment. Using Hapara Teacher Dashboard software and Google Apps Cascade will be able to tie systems together no matter what type of device a student uses. In 2013-14 only 34 percent of Cascade Jr. Sr. High School students from the lowest household incomes were participating in approved, online, supplemental courses while 50 percent of the students who came from the highest household incomes were taking advantage of these advanced opportunities. This equals a 3:2 digital divide in a school that as a whole has a 43 percent participation rate in the free and reduced lunch program.

Centennial Elementary School, Lewiston School District: $67,707.95

Centennial Elementary is seeing growing poverty and transience in their community.  They have decided to implement a STREAM initiative which focuses on science, technology, research, engineering, arts and mathematics – allowing students to immerse themselves in “hands dirty” and “feet wet” activities. The Idaho Technology Pilot Grant will help Centennial Elementary implement this initiative throughout the entire school from Kindergarten to 6th Grade. The $67,707.95 grant will fund items such as fourth generation iPads, 3-D printers, high definition camcorders, twelve GPS units and two IROK Lego Robotic Team Kits to allow Centennial students to compete in the local Lego Robotics League. Students will be able to video record and document research data, Skype with students from around the world to learn about other cultures and languages, broaden their artistic expression with computerized art projects, and participate in after school activities that will include the robotics league, sports motion study and competitions in science, engineering, applied arts and applied math.

Forrest M. Bird Charter School, located in Sandpoint: $317,515.68

With an award of $317,515.68, Forrest M. Bird Charter Schools’ technology pilot plan aims to create a personalized, rigorous learning environment through the use of technology tools by well trained, dedicated instructors. Grant funds will assist the school in publishing a school-wide teacher created Learning Management System using Canvas software. Canvas allows students and staff a cloud-based arena to access all of their course information, materials, grades and assessment data.  Funding will also be used for specific professional development for the classroom incorporation of technology tools; advanced technical support for staff, students and parents; a laptop for each student and teacher; iPads for special education classrooms; and projection presentation systems. This project is targeting not just students during school hours, but offering courses and trainings to staff, students, parents and the community in technology applications, digital literacy, digital citizenship and cloud-based technology.

Fruitland Elementary, Fruitland School District: $345,230.06

Prior to applying for the 2014 Idaho Technology Pilot Grant, Fruitland Elementary teachers had conducted a mini-technology study of their own. The study focused on two classrooms using student devices.  One classroom used a station approach with iPods – allowing the students to “take turns” using the devices for individualized learning experiences. The other classroom was able to provide 1:1 iPads for each student, allowing students to use the iPads as needed, not wait for their turn at a station. The data shared from iPad technology implementation in the whole class setting indicated a positive increase in student learning.  Fruitland Elementary will use the $345,230.06 from this grant award to supply 530 additional iPads to their classrooms, and supplement the technology purchase with accessories and peripherals.

Idaho Arts Charter located in Nampa: $205,604.80

IACS will be using a combination of Chromebooks, laptops and MacBook Air devices to accomplish their goal of reinventing education.  Part of their strategy is to utilize these devices to promote online learning by creating mobile learning labs, while also embedding tools for students and staff to learn and teach in the 21st century. An integral piece of the grant is a learning environment where students can utilize different learning modes and have access to technology at their fingertips.  IACS stated in their grant application that they are “free to innovate and establish practices that are responsive to the needs of learners,” showing that this model will be repeatable in other charter and small districts.

Lapwai Middle-High School, Lapwai School District: $32,986.34

Lapwai Middle-High School will use their Idaho Technology Pilot Grant to install Mimio Interactive Projectors throughout their school at a total cost of $32,986.34.  Mimio Interactive Projectors will allow students and teachers to turn regular white boards into interactive learning surfaces creating an innovative tool bringing lessons, graphics and images to life.  Students and teachers can use sensors and pens to collaboratively navigate interactive websites simply using a conventional dry erase board surface. With the cooperation and support of its parent-teacher organization, district leadership team, middle-high school family engagement team and the Nez Perce Tribe Executive Committee they hope to eventually replicate this project to the elementary school as well, benefitting all the students of this rural and remote district.

Malad High School, Oneida School District: $223,027

Malad High School believes an important characteristic of the Next Generation of Learning is a classroom environment moving from teacher-centered to student-centered learning.  The goal of Malad High is to provide deep student engagement that comes from students directing their own learning experiences and students teaching students.  Malad High was awarded this grant in the amount of $223,027 which will provide students and staff with the purchase of Chromebooks, and Chromecast devices.  As with other grant recipients, Malad High will utilize a portion of their grant funds for professional development by a Google Certified Trainer and Google Educator Certification.

Meridian Technical Charter High School, located in Meridian: $14,825

This Idaho Technology Pilot Grant award of $14,825.00 will go toward the use of “Illuminate Your Life” from Luminosity. This program will help students who experience difficulties often associated with the autism spectrum to improve their emotional regulation and executive functioning using the technology in which they are comfortable. The Idaho Technology Pilot Grant will allow this Technical Charter HS to focus on a small portion of their already tech savvy students that may otherwise be at risk for falling behind or even dropping out. The opportunities this pilot project offers to see the effect of technology based programs to help students with these challenges is an exciting use of the pilot grant funds. Grant funds will allow 25 students to access brain games on iPads. If this pilot succeeds, as it has in other states, this could easily be replicated at low cost throughout other interested schools in Idaho, opening up opportunities to students who may be at risk of academic failure due to autism type and other emotional challenges.

Mountain View Middle School, Blackfoot School District: $186,323.41

The Blackfoot School District believes in their district motto which is “educating our children today for a greater tomorrow.”  They are receiving an Idaho Technology Pilot Grant in the amount of $186,323.41 and will be utilizing these funds to purchase iPads to accomplish growth in creativity and innovation.  The school will also upgrade infrastructure to support the increase in bandwidth from use of these new devices throughout the school. Mountain View Middle School will utilize these new devices along with personnel and other resources to move towards adoption of assessing for learning, assessing for attainment and assessing for system performance to increase greater student achievement.

Mullan Trail Elementary, Post Falls School District: $204,464.80

Mullan Trail Elementary wants to become Idaho’s first “Google School.” The goal of this “Google School” is to assist teachers in improving student achievement and engagement by utilizing technology to deliver unique, authentic and challenging lessons specific to their students’ interests, learning styles and abilities. Mullan Trail will purchase and implement Chromebooks, tablets and management systems, Chromecast and other Google accessories to improve student achievement by providing individualized instruction based on real time data. Mullan Trail also intends to use some of the pilot grant funding to install and enhance Wi-Fi and network infrastructure to ensure sustainability. In addition to the technology purchases, Mullan Trail is also making a significant investment in professional development for their teachers and staff.

Ponderosa Elementary School, Post Falls School District: $249,909.60

The Ponderosa Elementary pilot project entitled “G.A.M.E.ON!”, for Going Another Mile to Educate, intends to capitalize on today’s students’ familiarity with digital games and game mechanics. This will help to ignite enthusiasm in the individual student’s desire to “show what they know” and “level up” to more advanced material at their own rate. The intent is to “Gamefy” aspects of education challenging students to master skills and concepts, move on to more challenging levels and be recognized for their achievements. Using a $249,909.60 grant award, the school will purchase Chromebooks and accessories, and utilize Open Educational Resources, Mozilla Open Badges, and personalized content. Students will practice and master reading, writing and mathematics while creating and accessing new, personalized educational content.  If a student is struggling with a subject, they can utilize approved, online content such as Khan Academy to progress at their own pace. Advanced students will be able to move on at their own pace as well. Learners will earn digital badges for mastering content based on Idaho Core Standards and will be able to “level up” to new, more challenging content as they demonstrate their mastery.

South Fremont High School, Fremont County School District: $100,845

South Fremont High School will use their Idaho Technology Pilot Grant funds to help them completely reframe their high school. They intend to implement a STEAM focus, sciences (social and physical), technology, engineering, arts (fine and industrial) and math. This program encourages inquiry based cross-curricular projects as a means of raising achievement and participation in advanced learning opportunities.  Being a small community they intend for the technological devices to augment the few computer labs they have available. With the $100,845 award, South Fremont High School will not only purchase 180 refurbished Dell Latitude laptops, accessories and mobile storage carts, they will invest in technology professional development for their teachers. Through training in the latest web 2.0 tools, open educational resources, digital citizenship and the learning management system teachers will be able to develop and lead their students in inquiry based lessons. Using formative and summative based assessments, often given via individual computing devices, teachers can better tailor the students learning experience using data driven instruction. With a STEAM focus students at South Fremont High School will be more prepared for post-secondary education and may have more desire and opportunity to take part in the advanced opportunities available to them during their high school career.

South Middle School, Nampa School District: $516,619.36

Currently in the process of redesigning student’s learning experiences to encompass the growing needs of today’s learners, South Middle School will continue down this path with the award of the Idaho Technology Pilot Grant.  South Middle will continue to innovate, and utilize the innovative concept of “flipping the classroom” with the support of new devices purchased through this grant award.  The educational need is present at South Middle, serving a diverse population of 878 students with 57 percent being served through the free and reduced lunch program.  The purchase of computers, Apple TV’s, projectors and other items will help support this student population in achieving in mathematics and English language arts given that there is now a larger gap in student achievement and educational expectations with the new Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The grant will help to close the computer to student gap and allow access to high-quality digital content and real time feedback.

Vallivue Middle School, Vallivue School District: $328,470

Ready to design a blended academic model for their next generation learners, Vallivue Middle School has been awarded the Idaho Technology Pilot Grant in the amount of $328,470.  These monies will support the school in providing technology to support collaboration, interaction, engagement and an increase in the depth of knowledge for students.  This new model will help each grade level address existing and projected gap of academic achievement in math and English language arts.  With the Idaho Core Standards requiring a deeper knowledge of content, this grant will support acquiring the skills necessary for Vallivue Middle School students to succeed in the 21st century.  Vallivue Middle School will not only provide Chromebooks to students and staff, but they also plan to allocate funds for professional development in various core areas to support the successful implementation of these new devices.  This professional development will not only be device specific, but also provided by Discovery Education.



Jennifer Swindell

Jennifer Swindell

Managing editor and CEO Jennifer Swindell founded Idaho Education News in 2013. She has led the online news platform as it has grown in readership and engagement every year, reaching over two million pageviews a year. Jennifer has more than 35 years of experience in Idaho journalism. She also has served as a public information officer for Idaho schools and as a communication director at Boise State University. She can be reached at [email protected].

Get EdNews in your inbox

Weekly round up every Friday