Learning in the digital age will take a step forward in the Switzerland County School Corporation after organizers secured at $75,000 grant from the Indiana Department of Education.

Earlier this year, 64 districts applied for the Digital Learning Grant, which range from $35,000 to $75,000. In the first week of March, 32 of those districts made successful pitches to DOE officials.

Grant recipients were notified on March 7.

Statewide, fulfilled proposals total $2,342,664 – an increase of $467,644 from 2016.

Cory Bougher, an eCoach at Switzerland County, said that grant will not only be used to purchase hardware but to “make an investment that is sustainable.”

An eCoach is a certified teacher that helps integrate technology into the classroom.

Bougher said in an email that organizers missed round one cuts for the grant the past two years, but in that time improvements were made to prepare for this year’s grant cycle. Wi-Fi capacity was increased across campuses, new technology policies were drafted, professional development was targeted and 1:1 program – where each student has their own device – was expanded.

Bougher was joined by principal Gregg Gowert, teacher Amanda Alford and fellow eCoach Missy Mullen for the DOE grant presentation earlier this month.

The proposal includes “funding teachers to attend educational technology conferences within Indiana and earning Google Educator certifications to build district skills capacity, piloting gamified professional development methods, bringing in professional education keynote speakers and hosting parent tech nights.”

Google Expeditions classroom kits will also be purchased. The kits allow students to take virtual field trips using devices. Additional iPads will also be purchased to bring 1:1 programs to kindergarten students – as the school prepares for approval of inclement weather days, she said.

Bougher said purchases must be made between April 17 of this year and Aug. 31, 2018. First, funds will be used to send teachers to conferences this summer and then for more devices made available on the first day of the 2017-18 school year.