PICKENS COUNTY - As teachers and students enjoyed their summer break, district officials continued their efforts to upgrade existing technology and remove outdated technology in all of Pickens County schools.
Nine elementary schools received technology upgrades during the summer months, said Tim Newman, executive director of accountability, information and technology services, during a technology update at last week's board meeting.
"We took nine of our elementary schools and had a chance to ... refresh the computers in those nine schools," Newman said.
During the refresh, computers were taken out of the schools and sorted. Computers not capable of handling the programs placed on them were removed from the schools, he said.
Six hundred eighty-one computers were disposed of, while 693 computers were redistributed to other schools, Newman said.
The nine elementary schools - Ambler, Clemson, Crosswell, East End, Forest Acres, Hagood, Pickens, Six Mile and West End - also received wireless internet upgrades, he said.
The wireless internet network consists of two levels - a school network and a guest network, Newman said.
"School-wide access for staff, students and visitors," he said. "Anyone who comes into the school is able to connect on the lowest level - being able to connect to the Internet if they needed to - but has no access to our network."
Trustee Jim Shelton asked if the range of the wireless devices would extend outside the schools and allow someone to access the Internet from outside the schools after school hours.
A person would need the instructions on how to get on the guest network, Newman said.
"It's possible," he said. "We're able to tune the system ... make different access points stronger and different access points weaker."
The district also implemented an asset-tracking program, allowing the district to keep track of all of its technology devices through bar codes, Newman said.
"Every product that comes in has an asset tag put on it," he said.
Each computer is equipped with tracking software that contacts the company the first time it logs onto the Internet after being stolen, Newman said.
"The company would then talk to the local law enforcement authorities," he said.
Last year, 11 stolen laptops were recovered from the district using the software.
"It's a great, great way to protect our assets," Newman said.
Each K-3 classroom received four laptops, while each fourth-and fifth-grade classroom received two laptops, he said.
Resource classrooms at each school received two computers, while self-contained classrooms received two laptops and two desktop computers, Newman said.
"Some of our self-contained students may have some troubles with the smaller laptops, so we wanted to be sure we offered both," he said.
Wireless laptops can be used anywhere in the classroom, shared among classrooms or teachers, or be combined if needed, Newman said.
The computers can be stored and charged in the carts that operate the Promethean smart boards in every classroom, he said.
Upgrades were also made to the school's electrical systems to handle the additional computers, he said.
At Pickens Elementary, teachers' voices also received an upgrade, Newman said.
A new teacher amplification system will be added that amplifies the teacher's voice using a necklace microphone, ensuring teachers can be heard by students as they move about the classroom.
"Most teachers like to move about the classroom and address all of the children," he said.
"Distributed speakers throughout the classroom allow a normal voice to carry
Other schools will also receive the system, Newman said.
Pickens Elementary School also received flat-screen televisions in the cafeteria, media center and front office, to be used for signage and presentations, and a new audiovisual presentation system.
The next technology project will see voiceover Internet phones placed in every teaching space.
The VOIP phones allow extra lines, such as fax lines, to be added easily and will allow the district to save money by pooling phone lines, Newman said.
Shelton asked what would happen to the VOIP phones if the school lost power.
"There will be landlines at every school," Newman said. "If power did go out, the landlines are still working, and we still have phones in those buildings."
Six more elementary schools will receive the technology upgrades next summer, followed by the new high schools, then the middle schools, Newman said.