Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Expanding Connected Learning

Earlier in the calendar year the Board of Directors asked the administration to re-examine our connected learning initiative. There was interest in advancing our timeline for expansion. Specifically, enthusiasm was evident to include the seventh and eighth grade in the one to one project. In addition, questions were posed about the next step for technology infusion in the elementary school. What might that look like?

Originally, our vision suggested adding these two grade levels during a reboot of computers in the high school. At that point, the 'old' machines that the high school students were using would be redeployed to the elementary school, and the new inventory would be expanded to include 7-12 grade. Roughly, this timeline would have been in another year and a half. But then the Board asked, "How about January of 2016?" Bold!

At first we thought there would be no possible way. After all, we hadn't done all the legwork and research that would be necessary to expand this project. On the surface, this seemed to be a massive undertaking with multiple moving parts in a very short time frame. How would we do the roll out? Would the students be able to take the machines home? Probably most important from my standpoint, could we support this financially?

Then this fall, we began to take very serious stock of where we were. The fact is, all of our seventh and eighth grade faculty have the same training as the high school faculty. Further, the majority of that staff also teach classes in the high school.  When you consider this from a training point of view, it wasn't really that much of a stretch. Teachers in the high school began to intimate that when they taught their classes in the middle school, there seemed to be a disconnect. The extra inventory that we had was being requested by these teachers for use in the middle school. 

An important consideration was the inventory and financial implications of making this leap. We crunched the numbers and quickly realized that we weren't too far off from where we needed to be. It is beginning to look very much like we will be able to make this happen. On Friday this week, the technology team and I will meet to finalize a recommendation for the Board's consideration at the regular meeting scheduled on October 19th. This recommendation could suggest that we begin the deployment in January of 2016 to include grades 7-12, hopefully in alignment with the start of the second semester.

That only answers part of the question because if you recall, further questions were posed about what our plans might be for the elementary school. Those plans are still under development, but it is apparent that whatever that might look like will be part of a grander scheme for the start of the 2016-2017 school year. Here is what we agree on right now: we do not see a 1-1 option for the elementary. There are too many tasks that are done in the elementary that don't necessarily lend themselves to this type of environment. However, we are having serious discussion about adding multiple iPad mobile carts to grades K-4. Right now we are contemplating testing the ubiquitous deployment of iPads in the elementary by having a group of teachers test the system this spring and act as a resource for teachers in advance of a much larger roll out in the fall. Again, this doesn't mean a direct 1-1 deployment of these devices, and they certainly will not be going home with our young learners!

You may have took note that there was no mention of 5th and 6th grade. We are still working on that, but there appears to be support for moving those grade levels to laptops as well. This would likely be part of the final roll out scheduled for the 2016-2017 school year.

In our final analysis one of the most important variables to consider is the faculty. We have to move forward, but we have to do so in a deliberate manner that ensures our teachers are ready. In my discussions, I have reminded them that a move like this will not be easy. In many cases it will be harder and will require some risk taking. They will not have all the answers and, while we can provide a rigorous training regimen, they will still be left with additional questions.

In the coming months we are eager to continue this dialogue with our faculty and develop a plan that makes sense for our young learners. We need to make sure all learners are ready for the world they are entering!

No comments:

Post a Comment