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Program wins national award

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River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

The Hudson School District has earned the 2005 Team Award from the Consortium for School Networking. Hudson was the only district in the nation to win the honor, which recognizes the use of technology to promote student achievement in grades K-12.

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District Technology Coordinator Nancy Toll went to Washington, D.C. last month with district software trainer Celeste Nelson and Willow River media specialist Rebecca Fowler to receive the award and participate in CoSN's 10th annual K-12 Networking Conference. Toll was a panelist for a presentation on teamwork.

In order to qualify for the award, a district had to have a team "whose impact on technology's role in transforming learning has been significant." The team also had to demonstrate leadership, innovation and communication skills to engage students, parents, teachers and the community.

Toll, a former secondary science teacher and the district's technology coordinator for the past five years, had a good feeling about her team's chances once she read the award criteria. "Since receiving our initial technology grant 10 years ago, we have worked hard to create a team and form partnerships that kept us moving forward. Ours is not a separate department but part of just about everything that goes on in the district," said Toll.

But receiving the award was a wonderful surprise. "It is a great honor. Since it was our first year applying I didn't know if we had much of a chance. But Priscilla Wyeth (school board member) encouraged us to go for it. It is very affirming, especially coming from an outside group, that we are making a difference."

Toll points to the district's Curriculum Council as evidence of the commitment of people from throughout the district to the effective use of technology in all aspects of learning. Members come from the community, parents, students, teachers, administrators and the technology staff and meet once a month to discuss and evaluate the use of technology in the district on an ongoing basis.

Toll said that it has taken several years of work but that she sees technology in the district moving to the point where it is integrated into almost all curriculum area.

"And it is a seamless integration. It's not just computer labs and not just a tool for teachers; rather, something that both students and teachers turn to enhance and enrich the curriculum. We don't use technology for the sake of using it but more as a tool to accomplish something more."

Toll said she has seen a lot of change over the years since she left the classroom, and that one of the most exciting things is the chance for students to connect globally. It was the theme of the conference she attended.

"There are some amazing things going on. Kids from all over the world are connecting and communicating about issues they face in their own countries and across the world. We have to prepare our students for the global world and give them the tools they need to do that. There is so much learning that goes on outside of the traditional classroom."

Toll said the council and the district's technology staff are constantly working to improve safety when it comes to the use of the Internet. They are currently working on a new program endorsed by the state's Department of Public Instruction, called I SAFE that reaches out to parents and the community as well.

"The internet is a great tool for our students but along with learning to use it, we have to teach them how to analyze what they find there and teach them to be critical of what they find on it," said Toll.

The district network communication system eChalk has helped to connect students with their teachers from their home and help parents monitor assignments and homework, but Toll said there is still a lot that can be done with eChalk, and that will develop differently from building to building.

"It is always a challenge for teachers to find the time to do or learn one more thing but our staff is committed to it."

Toll said in the coming weeks the students, teachers and technology staff will be at work on NWA testing. All freshmen will be given the assessment test on computer, the test will evaluated the same way and returned to teachers with the results in about 24 hours. Technology is also a big part of how Toll and her staff along with teachers provide information and compile reports for programs like No Child Left Behind.

"We spend a substantial amount of time pulling that information together and creating the reports," said Toll.

Director of Instructional Services Dr. Chuck Sambs says that Toll and her staff along with the council and the teachers and staff across the district have made important strides in the use of technology throughout the district.

"Our curriculum has been enriched through the use of technology by bringing in sources outside the classroom and not limiting teachers or students to what they find in a textbook. Now the world is the limit. They have access to the best libraries and resources available."

Sambs said he was not surprised to hear of the award. "It really is about teamwork for our staff and about a lot of hard work. I give Nancy and her staff tremendous credit for what they have accomplished in piloting new programs, in planning and in staff development," said Sambs.

Hudson's staff development plan when it comes to technology has become a model across the state, according to Sambs, and he credits Toll's leadership as an important factor in the success the district has experienced.

"She understands the concerns of teachers but is also willing to push to the next level, try new things, look at some new application in the classroom and take on new challenges."

For more information about technology in the district, contact Toll at (715) 381-5199.

Meg Heaton can be reached at mheaton@rivertowns.net

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