School System Technology Integration

By Lawrence Hardy

Would Sam Adams “friend” Lord Hillsborough if they were both on Facebook?

That question is probably way too easy for the students in Lisa Parachini’s American history class at Dysart High School near Phoenix, Ariz. The students each picked a Founding Father, made Facebook pages for them, accepted (or most likely rejected, in the case of Adams and the King’s colonial secretary) various “friend” queries, wrote persuasive blogs in the voices of their patriots, and otherwise became not mere spectators, but players in the American Revolution.

The class, which was videotaped and used in an ongoing professional development course for teachers, is a favorite of Evan Allred, director of information technology for the Dysart Unified School District, located in the aptly named Surprise, Ariz.

“That’s an example of Exceeding Standards, Future Ready,” he says, pointing to Dysart Unified’s mission statement.

And the class also proves that sometimes a district’s slogan means exactly what it says. “The (state) tests are here now, and we need to address them,” Allred says. “But we also need to look forward.”

Dysart is one of a growing number of districts that are integrating advanced technology into all of their operations, from instruction and assessment to transportation, records management, and school board functions. The 23,000-student district, which has tripled in size since 2000, is doing this despite severe budget cuts that have made states like Arizona synonymous with fiscal calamity.

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