District technology reaches new heights

Students can fly drone camera with tablet computer

By: April Lehmbeck | Advertiser Times | Published July 30, 2014

HARPER WOODS — School staff and students got to take an exciting piece of technology for a spin when they sent the district’s new camera drone into the air across the high school football field to film a bird’s eye view of the scenery.

Students can use iPads to control the drone, and the district posted a video on the district’s Facebook page.

Director of Academic Accountability David Rabbideau said that trying out the new drone was fun.

“It has GPS capabilities,” Rabbideau said. “You can tell it where you want it to fly, how high, how far.

“It goes up, it goes down, it twists,” he said.

He envisions being able to use it to get crowd shots at football games and other sporting events.

The drone has possibilities for classroom use, as well.

“If you’re studying birds, you can fly it into a tree and look at birds in the nest,” he suggested as one possibility. “So far, it’s been an amazing purchase.”

The district was able to purchase the drone camera with extra School Improvement Grant (SIG) funding the district received. That funding also will help with some more exciting plans.

“The goal is to build a multimedia production studio in the high school,” Rabbideau said. He added that the studio will have “live broadcast capabilities” for a high-tech experience that teachers and after-school coordinators can use with students. 

“We put in for some really nice video cameras,” he said of the plans. “(Instructional Technology Specialist) Andy (Hopkins) had suggested that we swap one of the (other cameras) for a drone camera.”

The district’s video shows Hopkins helping students learn to maneuver the drone. An iPad can be used to fly the drone.  

“He was like a kid in the candy store with this,” Rabbideau said. 

“They were flying it like pros in a matter of minutes,” he said of the students who tried it.

The drone camera will allow the district to film things at a unique angle and give students hands-on experience with the camera. It can be used for after-school programs.The drone and multimedia room plans are just a couple of pieces the district is adding as it gears up to its implementation of 1-1 technology this fall, which means the district will have a device — a tablet or laptop computer — for every student in the district.

It’s all part of a plan to make sure students have access to 21st century technology and give teachers a way to use technology in their lessons that will engage students.

The information technology staff at the school is working to make sure all of the new technology, including the 1-1 devices, is up and running for the fall.

“We definitely have the 1-1 rolling out,” Rabbideau said. They’ve worked to make sure the schools have the necessary Wi-Fi accessibility throughout, and they’ll need it with the number of devices they’re bringing on this year.

“We’ll have close to 1,000 devices in this building running off Wi-Fi,” Rabbideau said of the secondary campus.

It’s a busy summer for the district.

“It’s really exciting around here,” Rabbideau said. “It’s a big task, but we’re going to start the year 1-1, and in some cases 2-1, throughout the district.”

To prepare, teachers will have a couple of professional development days devoted solely to the new technology before the start of the school year.

Silas Williams, another of the district’s information technology professionals, said that they are moving everyone from Outlook to Gmail, which works in conjunction with Google Apps for Education.

“We’ve got a lot of training for the teachers,” he said.