Inner-city students at charter school benefit from overhaul of IT system
Michael, a sixth-grader at the science, math and technology charter school Park City Prep, was having serious trouble keeping up with his class back in the fall. He’s a bright boy, but his reading comprehension and writing skills lagged behind his grade level.
His teacher, Meagan Bolton, devised a solution with assistance from the kind of technology Park City Prep wants students like Michael to master.
Bolton downloaded some reading applications onto an Apple iPad 2, one of about 200 new notebooks and tablets at Park City Prep. The school acquired the new hardware as part of a massive technology overhaul from a local company, CMIT Solutions of Central Fairfield County in nearby Norwalk, that rebuilt Park City’s tech platform from scratch.
The teacher tailored the iPad to match Michael’s academic level; he began using it to hone his reading and writing skills with apps that let him “write” orally and translate the results into written text and write sentences based on images. Bolton said she’s seen “significant growth in his confidence, pride and academics.”
Michael’s experience illustrates both a challenge and an opportunity for schools like Park City Prep. The school serves 250 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders from one of Connecticut’s lowest-performing school systems. It’s as hard for schools to keep up with rapid technological changes as it is for them to reach students who may lack basic skills.
In the case of Park City Prep’s students, though, the new iPads and MacBook Airs, and the fresh system that supports them, opens up new methods and tools for learning that traditional classroom learning can’t match.
It helps, of course, that the system functions reliably. CMIT Solutions, led by local owner Avi Davidovich, installed a new operating system, reconfigured the network and built an infrastructure that would allow Park City Prep’s Windows-based servers to work seamlessly with the new Apple hardware.
“We’ve put such an emphasis on teachers integrating technology into everything,” said Bruce Ravage, Park City Prep’s founder and director. “So many of the instructional programs we use require using computers, whether they’re iPads, notebooks or desktops. It becomes part and parcel of the daily instructional program, and to have it go down completely disrupts the educational process.
“The staff and students are much happier than before. There’s no way they couldn’t be. The folks at CMIT Solutions are very responsive. Avi takes a great deal of pride in what he does and really wants the work he does to be the best it can be.”
With the overhaul, Park City Prep’s teachers and students can finally use the entire range of advanced educational software and web-based learning tools. School officials have retired about 100 antiquated desktop computers for new desktop units in addition to the new notebooks and tablets. The entire campus has WiFi coverage, so students can connect to the school network and Internet anywhere on school grounds.
Park City Prep’s teachers say the new technology makes learning more efficient and collaborative, and the students tend to retain more. Educational apps allow students to work individually or as a team, blog and quickly do research before reading assignments; they let teachers see at a glance and in real time which students need help. Morale has improved, too. “Many students haven’t been exposed to new technology in their homes, and offering it to them at school piques their interest and gives them confidence,” said teacher Christopher Van Etten.
Davidovich and his CMIT Solutions team understand the value that high-quality, dependable technology can bring to students’ lives and to the community in general.
“We’ve been able to successfully integrate all those moving parts and make them work in a very cohesive and coherent way,” Davidovich said. “Seeing the final results, the infrastructure working properly and allowing the students and teachers to use those tools to help them learn, that’s really the value of it in my mind.”
To learn more about how CMIT Solutions can transform technology use for a small business or school, see www.cmitsolutions.com; for information about CMIT Solutions of Central Fairfield County and for details about the Park City Prep project, see www.cmitsolutions.com/cfc.