Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The History of Our Connected Learning Environment

Unless you have a student in grades 7 or 8, you are probably unaware of where our connected learning environment currently stands or what our ultimate strategy is for the ubiquitous deployment of devices in our school district. The last time we spoke about this was October of 2015. At that time we were poised to recommend an expansion of our environment to include these two grade levels and field test tablet devices in the elementary. The board subsequently approved that recommendation in October. That approval led to the deployment of laptop computers for students in grades 7-12, with the option of taking those devices home daily. At the same time, we introduced tablet devices in grade 3, tasking those instructors (two of which are model teachers) with field testing the strategy and researching the utility of this device at the elementary school. Third grade students are not permitted to take these devices home. All of this happened in January of 2016. 

We are now poised to make a final recommendation to the board that will fully scale up our connected learning environment, making third grade the entry point for connected learning. It has taken us many years to get to this point, and I appreciate the patience that many of our parents have exercised while providing strong advocacy to ensure your student is prepared to live and work in the 21st Century. Our intention was to move at a pace that ensured we were making the right decisions for our school district and students. If you will oblige me the opportunity to take a trip down memory lane!

Third grade students using iPad devices during a lesson on measurement
in a recent math class. Each student in third grade was assigned
an iPad beginning in January of 2016.
Upon arriving in Hudson in 2010, an idea existed to provide a 1:1 laptop environment for students in the high school. However, at that time the infrastructure did not exist. The electrical service in our elementary was an immediate concern and a wireless network had not yet been developed. Before any advances in technology could be given serious consideration, these obstacles had to be overcome. In the spring and summer of 2011 the electrical system in the elementary would begin to be addressed. This project would include re-wiring the entire elementary attendance center and would span two summers with final completion the summer of 2012. That same summer, work began on the installation of a wireless network that would provide coverage district wide. In June of 2011 a plan was unveiled to the board that included a timeline for launching a 1:1 environment in the high school. That initial plan called for a roll out one year later.

The same time all of this was happening, we were busy throughout the district ensuring we had projectors installed in every classroom and that the rest of our computer fleet was up to date and would be compatible with a different platform. Additionally, the Hudson PTO partnered with the school to purchase projectors and Apple TVs for each elementary instructional space. We also began field testing computers and tablet devices in classrooms.

In the fall of 2012, the discussion about our 1:1 environment began to accelerate with the board. Guests were invited to visit with board members about specific solutions, how to manage the devices, and what to expect upon roll out. We were also continuing to have deep discussions about why we should or should not consider this. If indeed we were going to be a 1:1 school, we wanted to do it for the right reasons--that is for the students of Hudson schools. Not because of any actions from our neighboring districts. It was somewhere around this time we began to talk about the idea of connected learning instead of 1:1. To this day we continue to remind people, "It is not about the device, it's about what we can do with the device". That fall we completed the installation of our wireless network throughout the district. In January of 2013, it was recommended that we time the final board vote of the initiative to coincide with the renewal of the PPEL, which was scheduled for that September. The downside would mean a delay of implementation until January of 2014, but the positive was that it provided a unique opportunity to permit voters of the Hudson Community School District to weigh in on the project.


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