Thursday, March 15, 2007

Classrooms for the Future

You may have heard the buzz about the Classrooms for the Future (CFF) grants and wonder what the program is all about. Classrooms for the Future is an initiative developed by Governor Ed Rendell to bring Pennsylvania's high schools into the 21st century. CFF is NOT a technology grant; CFF is about total school reform. This $200 million, three-year initiative is designed to improve teaching and learning in Pennsylvania's high schools.

The initiative places laptops on every desktop in English, math, social studies, and science classrooms in Grades 9-12. It equips each of these classrooms with multimedia projection systems, whiteboards, scanners, digital cameras and videocameras, web cams, and a laptop for the teacher. CFF also includes significant dollars for teacher training and support so that participating teachers are prepared to integrate these technologies into their instructional practices.

According to the PDE web site, "Classrooms for the Future is about recognizing and embracing the need for reform, understanding the role of technology as change agent, and adopting practices that may be unfamiliar."

The initiative is already entering Year 2, and my understanding is that high schools in all 501 school districts in the state WILL participate in CFF. The grant RFP will be released any day and is due sometime in April. Mrs. Walters, Sharon, Tami and I will attend a mandatory meeting on March 27 to learn more about CFF. If we decide to write the grant this year, we will have only two years to roll out the program in Grades 9-12.

Please note that the legislature has not yet funded Years 2 and 3 of this initiative, so we will be writing a grant and hoping that the funding is legislated. (Year 1 worked the same way.)

This program is very exciting and will extend our EETT program in Grades 7 and 8 nicely into the high school. And I absolutely agree that we need to change the way we do business. Our students, the "Net Generation," do not learn the same way we did, yet our classrooms, for the most part, still look the same as when we were in school!

However, I do have some concerns about how this initiative will work for us. We will potentially add 400 laptops to our network. Is our network robust enough to handle the additional load? Is our electrical backbone robust enough for that matter? How will the district financially handle the replacement of these laptops in four years when they are no longer reliable or under warranty? Will our teachers buy into the program? Does PDE really give them a choice?

Stay tuned as we attempt to answer these and many other questions about Classrooms for the Future! To learn more about CFF, please visit the following links:
PDE's "Classrooms for the Future" web site
Classrooms for the Future fact sheet (.pdf)
Frequently Asked Questions (.pdf)
Newspaper article on Greenville School District's funded CFF Grant

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