At Woodward Public Schools, technology is everything. The school’s Boomer vision is to engage all stakeholder in an ongoing, collaborative, data-driven effort to increase student achievement and close achievement gaps. Technology is key to this vision and has been vital for teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Technology has been extremely important in providing our students and staff with a free, safe and substantial learning environment. We have several models that we can provide to students from a blended model to total virtual to in-class, in-person learning,” said Jerry Burch, deputy superintendent of curriculum, instruction and technology. “From Google Classroom to Odyseyware, Istation, IExcel, Seesaw, Calvert Learning, to just a Google Hangout or Zoom, our infrastructure must be robust, steady and stable. During this time, being connected is the most important part of what we do now.”
Woodward has provided 1:1 devices for students since Burch began serving as deputy superintendent. He started one of the first 1:1 initiatives in Kansas in 2004-2005. The district is a true 1:1 school with every student from Pre-K to 12th grade having access to a digital device. This translates to over 5,000 devices on the school’s network at any given time.
The City of Woodward is the county seat for Woodward County, located in northwest Oklahoma. With a population of 12,051, it is the largest city in a nine-county area. OneNet serves several organizations in Woodward, including Woodward Public Library, High Plains Technology Center, Big Five Community Services, Woodward Regional Hospital and multiple state agency sites.
Woodward Public Schools has been a OneNet customer since 1998. The school started with a single T1 circuit in 1998 and added a second T1 in 2005. Since then, the school has upgraded five times and now utilizes a high-speed 10Gbps circuit.
This high-speed connection has benefited the school in a number of ways. The IT team no longer houses digital resources on-site. Everything the school does is in the cloud. If the school’s internet goes down, everything they do goes down.
“Every day our students use the network and internet to access something in the cloud, on the web, or just to reach out to someone. The connections between student and teacher, between student and learning, between student and student are second to none,” said Burch.
This high-quality internet connectivity is vital for rural schools like Woodward Public Schools to participate in digital learning. Burch has seen this evolve over the years.
“I have a unique background in technology and how it has come to affect everyday life. In the 70s I took Fortran from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater. My brother was a computer programmer for the Strategic Air Command during the late 60s early 70s,” said Burch. “I have seen many changes over the last 30-plus years, and I can now say that we have achieved, in no short order, that we can provide our children with a 21st century learning environment with access to the world like never been seen before. “
In today’s digital learning world, Burch says the challenge with technology is infrastructure. Switches and access points are the network. This summer, the school will update all core switches to take full advantage of the 10Gbps access throughout the school’s WAN.
Having enough bandwidth to allow full and free access to the world is the most important part of the school’s IT department. This is possible through OneNet and its support to provide access to the world, Burch said.
Woodward has had a great partnership with OneNet for many years. But, Burch said, it all comes down to price, reliability and support.
“OneNet strives to provide the high-speed, reliable connections that rural schools like Woodward need at an affordable rate,” said Vonley Royal, OneNet executive director. “Beyond just connectivity and price, OneNet provides world-class support to assist small IT departments with the expertise they need to stay connected throughout their school and to the rest of the world.”
Royal and OneNet’s team members view creating partnerships with customers as the key to ensuring top-notch service, and that is apparent to Burch.
“I could not ask for a better partner than the OneNet staff. They are always on top of the issues and provide an exceptionally valuable service to the community of Woodward,” said Burch.