A look inside an i21 classroom

Harlan Klein, principal of San Diego’s Innovation Middle School (iMiddle), said the i21 initiative has transformed students’ attitudes toward learning.

iMiddle students receive netbooks that operate with 3G wireless connectivity paid for by the school. Students bring their devices home and can connect to the school’s network from anywhere, but school filters and firewalls remain in effect—blocking access to questionable or unsafe websites on school grounds as well as at home, a library, or other location.

The school achieved the top ranking on the state’s most recent Academic Performance Index.

“All our data suggest that not only are the most exceptional students making progress, but all students are making progress,” Klein said. “We’re raising achievement from the ground up.”

Klein said iMiddle has “virtually eliminated the far-below achievement gap” through its one-to-one program. “I attribute a lot of our success to our technology integration,” he said.

The i21 initiative has “definitely provided more accountability for students” through the use of Zangle Gradebook, he said, which gives students and parents access to assignments, homework, and school communication online.

In addition to the online gradebook, iMiddle teachers maintain classroom blogs or Moodle sites. Tests and quizzes are delivered electronically, which gives students and teachers immediate feedback on performance and weak areas.

All student work is saved to student profiles housed on the district’s network, and that work remains accessible during students’ time in the district by using the student’s Active Directory ID number.

If iMiddle students go on to high school and have difficulty with a math course, Klein said, they can “go back to their student portfolio and look at their saved notes from the previous year, and watch their former teacher’s video post explaining the concept—it’s all saved electronically.”

The technology has “dramatically increased the students’ motivation and their ability to recognize where their own inadequacies are,” Klein said, adding: “It really has helped teachers differentiate their instruction, and they’re able to target specific students for specific intervention based on the data.”

Klein said i21 has helped otherwise shy students participate in classroom discussions, because they feel comfortable using the i21 technology tools in the classroom. He said student engagement is one of the biggest successes to emerge from iMiddle’s part in the i21 initiative.

The curriculum exhibits “a much higher relevancy to the work students are doing,” he said. “Learning is more meaningful for students, because they have ownership of it. That ownership and responsibility have been critical to our success. There are very few times in any classroom where it’s a stand-and-deliver type of instruction. The engagement is vastly increased, because there’s such diversity in how things are presented.”

For example, teachers assign projects to students, and while those projects must contain certain elements, students are allowed to use nearly any technology, delivery method, and media they wish to complete the project.

“Students feel a lot more engaged in their curriculum, because they have ownership over what they’re learning and how they’re learning it,” Klein said. “Because they have that freedom, I’ve seen students take a lot more risks, and they put more time and effort into projects and assignments.”

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Laura Ascione
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