How do two ‘connected districts’ do it?

“We’re all about personalization and trying to create individual experiences for each of our students,” said Scott Muri, the district’s deputy superintendent of academics. “We recognize that students move at their own pace. We’re trying to validate and support the speed with which kids want to progress.”

Technology enables that flexibility, Muri said.

“We recognize that because of the advent of technology and its power and significance, we can finally personalize the connected classroom to a big degree like we’ve never been able to do,” he said.

In November of 2011, voters approved a $1 billion tax referendum that devoted $750 million to new school construction and $250 million to technology for schools and classrooms.

Using seat time waivers, students are able to move through their course content at their preferred pace.

District officials are exploring bring-your-own-device (BYOD) technologies for classrooms, and are focusing in particular on “how to create healthy connected environments to support an individual’s desire to use their own tools in the district environment,” Muri said.

Fulton County also is investigating one-to-one opportunities for students, with an emphasis on helping teachers effective integrate tools in the teaching and learning environment.

“The most important piece of what we’re doing is developing teachers’ capacity,” Muri said. The district uses a technology integration matrix to help teachers determine where they fall along the spectrum, and then professional development is designed around each teacher’s results.

Fulton Virtual Campus, the district’s online school, lets teachers conduct online assessments, develop lesson plans, and collaborate with fellow teachers and students. Teachers and students use Edmodo, a social learning platform, in classrooms to share ideas and stay connected.

Fulton County media specialists are beginning to think differently about their roles, and administrators developed a new job description that aligns the media specialist role with a variety of 21st century expectations so that the role “is not siloed off,” Muri said.

Access remains a challenge for the district, which counts 45 percent of its students as economically disadvantaged. While district tech officials are building a network to support two devices per student and teacher as they anticipate a growing BYOD environment, they also are outlining different ways to ensure that every student actually does have at least one device, whether that device is personal or provided by the district.

Laura Ascione

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