Four years ago, our schools in Pickens County, South Carolina had funding approved for a 1:1 initiative that we called Tech It Home. We started with Chromebooks for 9th graders, then added tablets and at-home internet access for 6th and 7th graders.
Now in our fourth year of Tech It Home, students in grades 4-12 have devices, but we’re still working to be “digital from day one,” meaning that all of our systems and applications are interoperable so that students have access to every resource they need, starting on the first day of school. Here are the steps we’ve taken to get us this far.
1. Start with a vision.
Over the last four years, we have dedicated the time and effort to really understand what interoperability means. Interoperability can encompass a wide variety of facets, including account provisioning, class rostering, single sign-on, and shared learning data, all of which play a role in providing students and teachers the right tools, all in one place, at any moment.
A big part of our research process was looking at districts that had made interoperability work. We’re the first district in our state to pursue digital from day one, so we had to find inspiration from others. We looked at Orange County (FL) Public Schools, Gwinnett County (GA) Public School District, and Houston (TX) Independent School District, three districts that were about five years ahead of us in that department. These schools helped us develop our blueprint.
2. Research platforms that will work for your school.
When studying other districts, we paid close attention to what they were using. We interviewed people around the country and found ClassLink could provide our teachers with a single sign-on that could link to our asset repository, SAFARI Montage, and to all the applications we were using or planned to use. For a learning management system to allow our teachers to build lessons, we landed on Schoology.
Once we found the tools that worked, we developed a master textbook and digital resource list of what we were using so that we could plan how to make them all work in harmony with each other and provide ease of use for our educators.