Carmel Valley Middle School seeks community help to upgrade school technologies

By Kelley Carlson

Carmel Valley Middle School is looking to the community for some tech support.

The campus has recently launched a campaign titled “CVMS 2.0 Upgrade Our School” in an effort to acquire new LCD projectors and to rewire the classrooms as a way to streamline audio/video technologies.

This will be the first upgrade of this type at the school, which is in its 13th academic year, according to Principal Laurie Francis.

“We’ve tried to keep up as well as possible,” Francis said.

Assistant Principal Adam Camacho explained that many of the LCD projectors are “on their last legs,” despite proper maintenance being performed over the years. The projectors display videos, images and computer data on screens or flat surfaces in the classrooms. Since they were all bought at the same time, the majority of them are experiencing problems simultaneously. Unfortunately, these days, the replacement parts are more expensive than the projectors themselves, Camacho indicated.

Classrooms also need to be rewired, allowing for “simplified, faster and clearer” audio and video, he added.

“It’s clearing up what and how equipment gets plugged in,” he said.

Upgraded technology “will take us out several years,” Camacho said.

To address these issues, each CVMS family is being asked to donate a minimum of $40, said Teri Naftalin, PTSA president. If there is 100 percent participation, the school will raise the goal of $59,000.

“We have a great parent body who is very supportive,” Naftalin said.

The fundraising effort began during Back to School Night, on Sept. 17, and it will continue until the goal is achieved. The upgrade would occur immediately after the monies are acquired.

“However long it takes, and whatever we have to do,” Naftalin said. “We’re trying to get the word out to everyone. We want to make sure the school can offer the kids what they need.

“The current students are going to benefit, as well as the students coming in,” she added.

Current tech tools

CVMS uses quite a bit on technology, which enables it to be a high-performing campus.

PC computers are standard, although only a few classrooms have enough for each student. Teacher Jonathan Loeffler relies on this equipment for his multimedia, video and online journalism instruction. Among the topics he covers is video editing, flash animation, Web design, Photoshop, digital photography and Internet use, and he’s also in charge of the Bobcat News Network video broadcast and the school’s online newspaper. Loeffler indicated that he would benefit from an upgrade.

For now, “we’re getting by,” he said.

Another instructor who relies heavily on technology is Holly Clark, who teaches multimedia, “Academic Success” and English. Formerly a technology curriculum director in Chicago, Clark has a master’s degree in technology and education and is “passionate about technology in the classroom.”

In fact, everything is executed on a computer in Clark’s classroom.

“English is the most unique,” she said. “We never get out paper (to use).”

Clark is a fan of showing TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Talks to her students — clips from the Internet that “brings” experts into the classroom to discuss various topics, such as a self-driving car or the future of digital books. They are shown via an LCD projector, Clark said, so sound and audio are crucial.

Students achieve better scores in technology-rich environments, Clark added.

While LCD projectors and many of the computers rely on wiring to function, so do Document Cameras, which are also in use throughout the school. Document Cameras display objects to a classroom of students, and magnifies and projects images. These save time, materials and money, according to Camacho; transparencies no longer have to be prepared, as teachers can slide any paper or object under the camera. The cameras can also take photos of an object, which can later be posted on a website.

“Students have access to materials they missed while absent,” said Christopher Faist, life science teacher and science department co-chair.

Additional instructional aids

There are other technology-based tools used at CVMS added relatively recently that aren’t tied in as closely to the upgrades but are also a crucial part of the school’s success.

One is the “quiz clicker,” a Web-based polling application that allows students to respond to teachers’ questions in real time. The clickers send signals to a USB drive that is plugged into a computer, which reveals to instructors where students are in terms of content comprehension. Teachers can then determine which subjects may need to be retaught, and which students may need assistance.

“Technology is an integral part of reteaching,” Francis said. “It’s targeting the kids who haven’t mastered the concepts.”

According to Faist, research indicates that the best results occur when teachers target the problem, immediately assess, and reteach the concept before a student forgets.

“We’ve seen dramatic improvements (in students’ performances) because of technology,” he said.

Many of the teachers also rely on the Blackboard online forum, a new addition for the school. Instructors can create quizzes and give benchmark tests every month or two, and the forum provides another means to learn which subjects need to be retaught. Students can access Blackboard in the classroom or at home, and if they seem shaky on a concept, they are directed to a Web site to relearn it.

Often, students will visit BrainPOP, an animated educational site that the campus has subscribed to in recent months.

“It’s a different way to get the same material,” Faist said.

Moving forward

Meanwhile, “we need to continue to explore technology as a tool for instruction,” Camacho said.

“(CVMS is) a great facility and a great school,” Naftalin added. “We want to make sure the teachers have everything they need to continue that.”

To donate to “CVMS 2.0 Upgrade Our School,” forms are available at or at the school. Naftalin noted that a few companies are matching donations, and more are welcome to join the effort.