Park City School District earns recognition for tech
The Park City School District has been named an Apple Distinguished Program for 2014 to 2016 for implementation of its "one-to-one" initiative that supplies students with laptops to use in the classroom and to take home.
Superintendent Ember Conley said the district is the only one in the state — and one of just a few in the region — that has received the designation, which Apple gives to schools and districts that have use technology in innovative ways.
Conley said the district learned last week that it had earned the recognition. Representatives from the district visited Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., in September when it was nominated for the honor. Following the trip, the district completed the application process by making an iBook that showed off what makes the technology experience in Park City schools special.
"We were excited," Conley said. "Anytime you go through a process like this — and not everyone who applies gets this — it’s a great way to share our story and where we’re headed. I’m excited to see what comes out of this and the partnerships we make."
The district was among the first in the region to put laptops in the hands of each student when it began the "one-to-one" initiative in 2007. Conley said the implementation of that is what drew Apple’s interest. Specifically, Apple was impressed with how the district incentivized teachers to incorporate the technology in classrooms. The district pays for teachers to take state technology endorsement classes, then pays teachers who become endorsed an extra $1,500 a year.
"That was something critical that we learned," Conley said. "There’s so much more than just getting the tools in their hands. It’s having support for our teachers and very specific professional development for our teachers.
One of the largest benefits the district will see as a result of its designation is networking with other Distinguished Programs. That will allow local teachers and administrators to learn how other top districts around the country are utilizing technology.
Being able to use those resources to remain on the cutting edge of technology-based learning is crucial, Conley said. Now more than ever, students are being brought up in a world that demands proficiency in technology and offers unlimited avenues for innovation.
And for the Park City School District, helping lead the charge into the future is exciting. Conley said one development on the horizon where the district could be on the front line is developing student schedules that would allow them to more easily pursue their interests.
"In no more than 10 years from now, you’re going to see a shift across the country to students being able to embrace their interests and have a flexible schedule," she said. "I see Utah being really innovative in that. When you embrace technology, it really does open a world."