Oklahoma City schools gear up for massive technology upgrades

District leaders and edtech evangelists at Oklahoma City Public Schools are barreling toward a big year in 2018.

Ever since Oklahoma voters approved a bond issue in November 2016 that allotted more than $52 million to technology purchases and upgrades for the district, OKCPS’s IT staff has been gearing up, according to Eric Hileman, the district IT director.

“The real work is going to begin in January, and it’s going to take about a year to do,” Hileman says in an interview with EdScoop TV. “It’s going to be complex, but it is really exciting to provide that kind of level of service and support and infrastructure to support learning.”

With the bond, the district has enough funding to build a 100-gigabyte core network, which aligns with standards and guidelines established by the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), of which Hileman is an emeritus board member.

The network will serve OKCPS’s 40,000 students. And since the last bond was issued almost a decade earlier, in 2007, Hileman says his team is planning to make this network work for students 10 to 15 years from now.

The infrastructure upgrades will have a major and immediate impact on students, teachers and administrators, Hileman says.

“Bandwidth will be ubiquitous,” he says. “It won’t be something you have to ration out. … You want it to be something that you don’t think about – it’s just like oxygen.”

Beyond the behemoth upgrade project, Hileman tells EdScoop he is following trends around makerspaces and data interoperability.

“Makerspaces are a big deal right now,” he says. Some elementary schools in the district are retrofitting their old computer labs as dedicated makerspace areas. “It’s a pretty powerful concept, especially in our one-to-one schools, where they already have technologies in the classroom” and don’t have a purpose for the computer labs anymore.

As for data interoperability, Hileman says schools in rural areas are really in need of additional support and structure.

“We have lots of systems and they’ve got to be able to talk to each other seamlessly,” he says. “Right now, that isn’t truly happening in a lot of cases.”