Connected Districts, Part 2: Prioritizing ed-tech

Students use Edmodo to stay connected and network with teachers and peers, and they use eBackpack, a web-based collaborative environment, as well. Science classes use Discovery Education’s science Techbook, and all students have access to MyOn Reader and its eLibrary, which features thousands of titles. Teachers are working to integrate AVID strategies around organization and note-taking to align instructional practices with digital resources.

Since the iPad implementation, behavioral referrals and infractions have dropped off, and disciplinary infractions have decreased by 80 percent in two calendar years.

School administrators “use data systems to drive programmatic decisions toward improving outcomes,” Porter said. “The science department uses an assessment library to create common formative assessments using grade level, standards-aligned items. Science staff use item analysis and standards analysis tools from SchoolNet, and the language arts staff use results from district-delivered assessments, Acuity, to plan for instruction, placement, and interventions.”

An unexpected benefit has been a 40 percent reduction in copier and printer fleet size, and close to a 40 percent reduction in prints and copies, Porter said. “While we had hoped that ‘going paperless’ would be an outcome, there were no edicts against printing. The reductions were a natural byproduct of a staff committed to 21st century digital learning styles.”

Teachers are more engaged and energized as well.

“While hard to quantify, staff motivation, sense of risk-taking, and energy levels all seem much higher than in years past,” Porter said. “Teachers collectively know that transitioning to digital-centric teaching and learning is not easy, but, along with their students, have made the commitment.”

Leftover technology bond money went toward purchasing the iPads and upgrading school infrastructure, combined with private grants, $100,000 from the Morgridge Family Foundation, and general funds for subscriptions and professional development.

“Our students and staff have been hungering for this type of experience, so most of our challenges have been around making sure they had all the resources they needed,” Porter said. This includes increasing bandwidth via private fiber networks and improving networking equipment with 1GB switches and wireless access points.

What recommendations would Porter give to other schools and districts hoping to implement or augment tech initiatives?

Laura Ascione

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