Technology inventory drives improvement in the Iron County School District
Cedar City, Utah (December 5, 2023) - Troy Lunt knows first-hand the value of participating in UEN’s statewide technology inventory. As Director of Technology for Iron County School District, he has seen how tracking what equipment and systems are in place can help district leaders better address learner’s needs.
The Utah Education Network (UEN), in partnership with national nonprofit Connected Nation, will soon release the results of its 2023 inventory of technology within Utah’s public and charter schools. Once again, the Iron County School District has taken part in this effort to see where its school network connection needed improvement and where district leaders should allocate technology funding.
In 2015, UETN began tracking how technology is used in the classroom, as well as the access teachers and students have to digital materials, devices and platforms. Data from the last inventory was released in 2021.
“The Utah Education Network technology inventory helped us create the overall district technology standardization that we've been trying to create for the last four or five years,” said Lunt. “It has benefited us greatly.”
Connecting all students
When Lunt started working for the Iron County School District in 2014, he identified its technology plan as: “Let's wait and see where this is going.” Technology existed in some classrooms, but the district was nowhere near a 1:1 ratio of devices such as tablets and laptops to students. The main technology students and teachers were using were classroom sets of iPads. But as the years progressed, some of the district’s schools drifted ahead of others in relation to available technology.
“We didn't want to run into situations where some students were trying to go to other schools in the district because they had more technology,” said Lunt. “It was something that we were trying to standardize and create the right environment for technology in our schools.”
In 2017, the Iron County School District Business Administrator worked closely with the tech department to put together a business plan to move toward 1:1. The first thing the tech department opted to do on a big scale was assign Chromebooks to each middle and high school student to take home. The district also assigned each elementary student a Chromebook to keep in the classroom. Then, during the 2017-18 school year the district was able to provide take-home devices for each student, reaching the desired 1:1 benchmark.
This was an imperative decision, as the upcoming pandemic was about to change the way students used technology, both in and out of the classroom.
Technology at home amid COVID-19
As COVID-19 swept the world, students all over the country were forced to do schoolwork remotely, and this was no different in Iron County.
“It was a challenge. At the beginning, teachers had to learn how to function with products like Zoom,” said Lunt. “The learning curve for some was very quick, and for others, not very quick at all. But we turned our technology department into a remote support staff for all our teachers and students.”
Over the phone, the teachers passed along what they learned about using the remote technology with students and families. After a lot of hard work, the teachers were able to put together dynamic programs and lessons for all of their students.
“That was almost a blessing in disguise,” said Lunt. “It really put us to task, to make sure that we could manage education with the resources that we had, given the environment that we were working with.”
New data identifies gaps, drives improvement
Participating in the biannual UEN School Technology Inventory has helped Iron Country School District identify key areas to improve, such as school network connections and technology funding.
“We quickly were able to deduce from the UEN technology report how we really needed to proceed with our network improvement for our high schools,” said Lunt. “We thought it was going to be the top-down approach, but the survey told us otherwise.”
The survey results revealed the cabling that existed, how long it had been in place, and its access point locations. This data completely changed how the tech department went about improving the schools. The report results also helped district administrators figure out where to allocate technology funding. Previously, the district did not have an inventory system to track every device. Thanks to the UEN technology inventory, now it does.
“The inventory report has been very helpful to be able to see where we were deficient in areas of spending,” said Lunt. Lunt encourages all Utah public, private and charter schools to participate in the 2023 inventory which is currently underway to ensure a better overall experience for their students, families, teachers and other school faculty.
“You need to get on this,” said Lunt. “There's a big push to make sure that the survey gets done because there is value to the survey and its findings. Everybody recognizes that there is value if we all do it.”