Bexley City Schools technology director Paul Ross told the board of education at its July 19 meeting that new technology is paying off for district students and faculty members.

Bexley City Schools technology director Paul Ross told the board of education at its July 19 meeting that new technology is paying off for district students and faculty members.

In the three years since Ross joined the district, operating systems, desktops and other technology infrastructure have been replaced.

In addition, the school district has made significant technological advances, including implementing Sakai, a collaborative learning environment.

"It's a place where students can interact with each other through discussion forums," Ross said. "It's a full online environment that's apparently in use by Stanford, Michigan, Cambridge University, and within Ohio, the University of Dayton, and Miami University is planning to use it in Fall 2011."

Ross said the system is so easy to use that Bexley fourth-graders picked it up quickly.

"The students are really engaged in using the technology," Ross said.

Sakai can be accessed online from within school buildings or the Bexley Public Library.

"The students get to log into an academic portal, and once they've logged in to that portal they can see course materials and anything from the syllabi, assignments, links, resources, images. It could also provide the student access to discussion forums It could be set as a homework endeavor. The students then respond to that."

Unlike other online educational environments such as Blackboard, Sakai is an open source program, so Bexley doesn't have to pay licensing fees in order to use it. And because it's open source, the district can contribute to its development, working together with other colleges, universities and school systems.

The program was piloted from January to June 2009, and implemented throughout the district last fall. So far, there are about 30 courses available through Sakai.

"The faculty have started putting their resources into Sakai as a way of cataloguing and storing the materials that they've developed for several years."

Other technological advances that Bexley took on last school year were an expansion of its PowerSchool use and deployment of One Call Now, an emergency notification system.

PowerSchool is the "core of the district's student data and (it) gets used a lot," Ross said.

"Last year we had over 14,000 logins to the parent portal."

Ross is scheduling training sessions for district faculty and staff in August.

A tech roundtable to collect ideas from community, faculty, staff and students on wireless infrastructure and internet filtering will be held from 6:30-8 p.m. Sept. 14 in the Tech Room.