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The rigid transition to 1 to 1 calculations continues

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The rigid transition to 1 to 1 calculations continues

The Rockford School District of Illinois never had firm plans for a 1 to 1 initiative. In fact, when Susan Uram, the district’s director of educational technology, asked one principal to try it, the response was something like, “No way! Do children carry devices all day? Are you crazy?

But when the pandemic hit, Rockford and thousands of other neighborhoods across the country had no choice but to look for enough laptops, tablets and hotspots to offer virtual learning to their students, many of whom are already behind their peers in another state. in reading and mathematics.

Immediately the district bought 14,000 laptops and another 7,750 iPads, as well as additional orders for several thousand devices. Over the past two years, approximately 27,000 county students have switched from two devices for every three students to approximately one per child.

The equipment arrived at lightning speed. But translating district learning in a 1 to 1 environment was a slow, painstaking job that will continue into the next school year and probably beyond.

Partly because circumstances have forced the district, which serves mostly students from low-income families, to make a sudden shift without time for careful planning.

“There was no choice. There was no discussion about the systemic impact it will have on teachers and their training, ”Uram said. “We can’t go back in time, but I think this is the next layer of discussion. There [are] teachers who feel, “I didn’t ask for that. I didn’t want to [1-to-1 computing]. ‘ But the district tells me I have to. ”

Rockford is part of a much bigger trend. Eighty-five percent of educators said their district has a device for each individual student of all classes that can be used in the classroom, according to a survey by the EdWeek Research Center among 1,063 educators conducted in late March and early April. Nearly half said students of all grades could take their devices home, while almost another third said only middle and high school students were allowed to do so.

The devices work. About half of educators surveyed said the availability of new technology has significantly changed teaching and learning, while nearly another third said the devices have made at least some changes.

But in many places, including Rockford, the transition remains uneven.

Uram and her team are working to help teachers understand that calculating 1 to 1 “doesn’t mean all the time on all screens. That doesn’t mean we throw away pencils and crayons. It just means that now we have the opportunity to use the tool and expand learning in ways that we could not before. ”

I think the simple part is to get the tools. I don’t think it’s hard. That supports me [at night] is: What are we doing to support our teachers in understanding how to teach with technology, how to integrate technology into their own world?

William Pierce, Executive Administrator of Digital Innovation and Project Management, Jefferson County Public Schools, Kentucky

The quality of ed-tech professional development varies widely

Professional development to help teachers understand how to better use technology to improve learning has been the focus of areas that have dramatically expanded the fleet of devices in response to the pandemic. More than 80 percent of educators surveyed said their districts offered such training, and nearly half described it as quality. Nearly half said it was “indirect” or worse.

Part of the job for Rockford: finding teachers who can serve as technical teachers for their colleagues.

Teachers who have been technical support specialists have been working in the district for a long time, receiving scholarships from the district in exchange for technical work. For years, these teachers have been essentially an extension of their school’s IT department. They, for example, ensured that the projectors had light bulbs. But this also receded into the background, and until 2018 the district did not have a clear mission for these educators.

After Uram took up her job – a new role for the district – in 2018, she refocused on helping other teachers use technology to improve learning, rather than reaching out with a broken Chromebook.

After the pandemic hit, Uram has steadily increased the number of support professionals from seven in 41 district schools to 30 this school year. She hopes to significantly increase that number, at least temporarily, as Rockford is working to find a foothold using calculations 1 to 1.

Taming the “Wild West” free software

The county also worked to reduce the hustle and bustle of software programs that teachers adopted when Rockford quickly switched to digital learning. Many companies made their programs free at the start of the pandemic, and teachers across the country took advantage of these offers. But some of the programs the teachers tried did not fit into Rockford’s curriculum. And some teachers did not realize that the district could be held accountable if student data was not properly protected.

“It was the Wild West,” said Jason Barthel, the district’s chief information officer. “Teachers are by no means to blame. They will use everything they can to make sure they are able to teach their students effectively. ”

The problem was that the district did not have a defined process for approving new digital tools. “There was an assumption that I could just, you know, bring it to my class, and I could do it or bring it to my principal, and my principal could approve it,” Bartel said.

Rockford has worked to help teachers better understand the laws governing student data, in part because Illinois has recently revised its privacy laws. And this has updated the process of selecting digital programs, accelerating the work begun in 2018.

Teachers were told: “If you are going to use software, it needs to be aligned with the curriculum, it needs to be approved and available. In terms of IT, we [need] to know where student data is going. We really were able to accept [out] many of these free apps we didn’t even know were in use, ”Bartel said.

Instead, the district focused on a few tools that Uram and her team tested. This helps the district provide more focused professional development and collect data to see if the programs are working as they hope.

Other districts face the same problems. Prior to the pandemic, only about half of the students in the Jefferson County School District of Kentucky, which includes Louisville, had the device. Directors had a lot of freedom when it came to how much laptops and tablets are involved in teaching and learning. Some schools were 1 to 1. In others, students used technology primarily in a computer lab.

Now the county has gone 1 to 1 for each school, buying about 76,000 devices and 12,000 hotspots, mostly through federal funding.

William Pierce, the county’s executive administrator for digital innovation and program management, is much more concerned with getting teachers ready to use these tools well than with how the district will find the money to replace them when they wear out.

“I think the simple part is to get the tools. I don’t think it’s difficult, “Pierce said. “That supports me [at night] is: what are we doing to support our teachers in understanding how to teach with technology, how to integrate technology into their own world? ”

Students need help in understanding how to use new technologies to study study material

And while many students had extensive experience with new technology, and some probably spent half their day on Snapchat or playing Fortnite, students didn’t immediately realize how new laptops and tablets could help them learn, he said. Pier.

Given the urgency of starting virtual schooling, “most of our students actually handed out a Chromebook and said,‘ Hey, go learn with it, ’” he said.

A new digital citizenship program is now being launched in the district, which will cover questions such as: how do you take care of your device? How to use it properly?

At Rockford, Uram and her colleagues use a similar strategy, creating a curriculum that gives teachers an understanding of what students at every level need to master when it comes to technology. For example, should a 3rd grader with a Chromebook understand how to copy and paste an image? What do 2nd graders need to know about publishing an e-book? How do you explain to students that they can’t just copy text from a website, embed it in an assignment and consider it their own work?

“You can’t just say,‘ Oh well, they’re natives of digital formats. They know how to do it, ”Umar said. “We need to be a little more careful.”

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