September 30, 2013 04:23PM
By Eric Vo
WALLINGFORD — Within the last year, the town’s school system received over $260,000 in grants from the state to purchase a variety of technology, such as video conferencing equipment and a system that would allow the schools to stream video.
The school system was awarded two grants by the state’s Public, Educational and Governmental Programming and Educational Technology Investment Account Grant Program.
The first grant, which was worth $154,635.40, was the largest amount of money to be awarded through the grant program, according to Kate O’Donnell, an information technology resource teacher. O’Donnell worked on writing the grant, which took her about a month, she said.
She came up with goals she wanted to accomplish with the grant — creating student developed news that would be shared with the community, video conferencing between the schools, real time collaboration and sharing of information between schools and the ability to record lessons from teachers. O’Donnell also said the school system is working on establishing a global connection, where its seeking out areas around the world to form “partnerships.”
Once the grant was received, video conferencing equipment was purchased to be placed into each school. Each school now has a cart with a TV, speaker and microphone. Once turned on, O’Donnell said, teachers are able to “see all units online within the district.” A similar video conferencing system was purchased for the Board of Education Conference Room in Central Office.
The grant was the largest amount of money to be awarded through the program, which O’Donnell said was largely due to the amount of people that would be impacted by the video conferencing equipment.
“We have the potential to reach every single student in the school system. And the ability through the newspaper and education channel to reach people in the community and global partnerships to reach people around the world,” O’Donnell said.
The second grant was worked on by O’Donnell and Rob Kovi, an information technology resource teacher. It’s worth $106,254.38, and will be used to purchased a system to allow for video streaming. Using the system, O’Donnell said, a teacher can record a lesson and a student who is home sick can still see what is being taught in the classroom.
Along with the video conferencing equipment, cameras, microphones and laptops with video editing software were also purchased for the high schools’ journalism programs. Both O’Donnell and Kovi realized the students in these classes weren’t producing any recorded material, so they decided to purchase equipment with the grant, she said.
School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo was excited to receive the grants and the opportunities it creates for students.
“The amount of money speaks to the capacity of the system that we’re allowed to purchase through the grant. The capacity of the system has significant potential not only for instructional (purposes), but also (will affect) the community,” he said. “Video on demand will allow us to provide access to recorded and live events to families and community members.”
The new technology is already creating potential opportunities for students. In October, students will have the opportunity to talk with astronauts on the International Space Station through a partnership formed between NASA and a space program organized by Chris Stone, a fifth grade teacher at Pond Hill School.
Stone is in the process of finalizing the event, and Menzo is hoping the new video conferencing unit could be used so students in all the schools can participate.
O’Donnell said she’s not sure what future plans are, but “we need to get this off the ground.” She is working on training teachers on how to use the new technology and how it could be used in the classrooms.