ECS continues to grow 1:1 technology program

If all instructors were to realize that the quality of thinking, not the production of answers, is the measure of education, John Dewey says, “something hardly less than a revolution in teaching would be worked.”

“We have a unique opportunity to reimagine the way Elkhart students utilize technology as a learning tool,” said Wes Molyneaux, director of technology integration. “Elkhart’s 1:1 initiative is about more than iPads. This initiative and the professional development opportunities that come with it focus on instructional strategies and innovative practices teachers can implement to successfully engage students in the classroom.”

Technology continues to evolve and Elkhart Community Schools has made a commitment to research and evaluate three important aspects of our 1:1 program on an annual basis:

  • What are the goals of our 1:1 program?
  • Are we being successful with implementation?
  • Do we have the correct device and software to best prepare our students for the skills they need to be college, career, and life ready?

Elkhart has identified these goals for the 1:1 program:

  • Prepare students to be college, career, and life ready.
  • Increase student engagement and achievement through authentic learning experiences.
  • Develop collaborative work skills in students.
  • Foster student-centered learning by encouraging creativity.
  • Develop critical thinkers and problem solvers.
  • Provide students access to a variety of digital resources.
  • Increase Literacy across all grade levels.

In 2016, Elkhart began transitioning to digital age teaching and learning through a variety of ways. First, Elkhart piloted 85 carts of chromebooks in secondary classrooms, then Elkhart teachers began to use Canvas as a learning management system, proving them and their students the platform to engage with a digital curriculum. Finally, to prepare teachers for the district’s 1:1 initiative, the district provided professional development for our early adopters throughout the 2016-2017 school year. Over 400 ECS teachers have completed the four week instructional boot camp to open their eyes to 21st century instruction. Teachers who successfully completed the four week professional development series received an iPad and training to “spark” their thinking about creating lessons that increase student engagement, foster critical thinking, increase literacy, and cover academic standards in an innovative way across the curriculum. Teachers who completed this initial four week training program were eligible to participate in Phase II. This three week long training series focuses on reinforcing the themes of Phase I of literacy, critical thinking, and engagement. During Phase II training, teachers were exposed to a variety of new tools and are expected to create new unit plans incorporating skills and tools they learned during Phase I and II.

“Throughout the 2017-2018 school year, our focus will be on implementation,” said Molyneaux.

“Two Elkhart schools, Mary Beck Elementary and Pierre Moran Middle School, received School Improvement Grants, which provided funding for new and innovative programs. A portion of the School Improvement Grant was allocated towards device purchases providing the opportunity for these two schools to move forward with an iPad 1:1 in the fall of 2017. Teacher workshops focused on student engagement, developing critical thinkers, literacy across the curriculum, classroom management, and interdisciplinary lesson planning.”

This year also marks the roll-out in some elementary classrooms.

“Second and third grade students at Bristol, Beardsley, Riverview, Roosevelt, and Woodland have all received iPads to use in their classrooms. To prepare for 1:1 technology, we’ve had over 150 elementary teachers complete phase II of our professional development. This means that in addition to the 1:1 classrooms, over 150 classrooms across the district have 10 iPads in their classrooms. Plus each elementary school currently has a cart with 30 chromebooks, with plans to add at least one more cart in each building.” It is expected that all elementary classrooms will be 1:1 by fall 2020.

All high school teachers have also received an iPad. Once a month during the 2017-2018 school year, high school teachers will be working with innovative learning coaches to discover how students can use the iPad to increase their literacy and comprehension, create authentic digital artifacts that demonstrate their learning and tackle real world problems. Implementation of the 1:1 program at the high schools is expected to complete in fall 2018, with middle schools following in fall 2019.

“1:1 rollouts are challenging because they require large amounts of the two most precious resources a district has: time and money,” said Molyneaux. “As the district implements 1:1, it takes a lot of human resources to provide training to teachers, deploy and repair devices, and develop meaningful projects that engage students in new and exciting ways. The decision to start the 1:1 with the high schools and move to the middle schools and elementaries in consecutive years ensures that students graduating from Elkhart from now until full implementation will experience the 1:1. If we started with elementary and then secondary, our current sophomores, juniors, and seniors would all graduate prior to experiencing these new technology-based instructional strategies.”

Wes is currently reading: Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros. This book encourages teachers and administrators to empower their learners to wonder, to explore, and to become forward-thinking leaders.