BOISE –The worlds of education and technology are steadily developing, and all areas of Idaho will benefit from further technological development within Idaho, said Mike Rush, executive director of the State Board of Education. Rush said the future of bringing the two together is going to have a big impact on schools and the state in his presentation to the Senate Education Committee Thursday.
Rush began his presentation with discussion of SBOE’s goal of 60 percent of Idahoans achieving a professional or technical degree by the year 2020. Rush said he has often been asked if the goal is realistic.
“Our institutions are the obvious key players in increasing Idaho’s educational inventory,” Rush said. “Higher education has a direct impact on the standard of living for every Idaho citizen.”
He said states with a higher population of college graduates also generally have a higher standard of living.
“We have a long way to go, but the future looks promising,” Rush said.
Rush said the first goal for the SBOE for the upcoming year is to strengthen the “K-12 education pipeline” to increase the number of students choosing to move on to post-secondary education. The board will also increase the rigor of curriculum across the state, especially in mathematics and English.
Idaho Digital Learning Academy Director of Technology Ryan Gravette and Director of Educational Programs Sherawn Reberry discussed their newly developed web portal. IDLA’s portal is a tool aiming at helping students gain clarity in how their credits will transfer to various educational institutions across the state.
“Our main objective was to develop a website with tools that would simplify the transfer process for post-secondary education,” Reberry said. “We were focused on two subgroups — high school students and college students.”
Reberry said IDLA is developing a portal for students to be able to easily plan out their educational futures.
“We really wanted to know what paths they took and what information was most important to them,” Gravette said.
Based on his research of other similar sites, he said the most popular tool is a course equivalency guide. Gravette said students who attend a community college and hope to transfer to a university, or are looking to find which courses best satisfy their needs often use the guide.
The portal has yet to go live. Gravette said they’re now working with state college and university registrars on perfecting course catalogs.
Gravette said the site is also going to be helpful for dual credit students. By taking college-level classes while still in high school, students are creating the foundation of their college degree. With varying credit counts and prerequisite requirements, calculating course transfers can be a harmful process.
“We want to make sure the students know how dual credit is going to impact their college careers — we don’t want students taking these courses without understanding that,” Gravette said.
Gravette said the portal also has the ability to track analytics on courses. He said it will be helpful for educational institutions to track which courses are most and least popular with transfer students.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna also discussed the introduction of the educational portal in his presentation to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee Jan. 23. He said the continuing introduction of new technology into Idaho schools is necessary to help students on the pulse of innovation.
“Technology is creating a new educational experience for students,” Luna said. He said the utilization of iPad and tablet technology has been particularly successful in engaging students.
Gravette said he is hoping the portal goes live at the end of March.
Priscilla Salant, interim director of the McClure Center for Public Policy Research put together a study on behalf of LinkIdaho on Internet use in rural Idaho. She focused her study on 1,006 randomly chosen households in Idaho and Lemhi counties, two of the least-populated counties in the state.
“The link here is that many rural households — people in rural households take online classes, so what happens to rural Internet access is relevant,” Salant said.
She said 21 percent of the houses polled use the web for classes. She said her findings on Internet use also play a part in making health policy. Salant said rural residents may soon participate in “tele-health,” a way to perform health monitoring and screenings online.
In addition to assisting rural residents in keeping up on their health, Salant said this Internet-based data also gauges the economic and educational health of Idaho.
“Unemployment rates are just not budging in rural Idaho — they’re holding pretty constant,” Salant said. “But unemployment is falling in urban areas.”
Salant also said the population of rural areas is falling as people migrate to more urban areas. According to her study, 80 percent of the households in the study had access to Internet, 9 percent said they don’t need it, 7 percent said it was too expensive to connect and 1 percent said it wasn’t possible to connect based on where they live.
“Technology is changing all the time — over time we can see more technologies being available for rural areas,” Salant said. “But it’s a moving target.”
Chloe Rambo can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @CRchloerambo