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iBelieve Initiative

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          Technology Integration

 

Fall 2015: Chromebooks Issued to WHS Students

In preparation for the 2015-16 school year, Washington High School students were issued their Chromebooks during registration Aug. 3-6.

 

This fall, the School District of Washington begins the next round of deployment of our 1:1 computing plan.

 

The iBelieve initiative includes a 1:1 computing model for students in grades 3-12. This is one portion of a larger shift in our educational culture.

 

Phase I distribution was to third and fourth grade students. This past year, each 3rd and 4th grade room received a laptop cart containing a device for each student. These “stay at school” devices have been used quite extensively so far, and the feedback has been extremely positive.

 

Phase II is the distribution of take-home devices to grades 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, and 12. These students will be issued a Lenovo 11e Yoga Chromebook, that they will be able to take home daily. It will be treated much like a textbook in that each student will be issued a device for which they will be responsible.

 

Unlike textbooks, though, the student will keep the same device for up to four years. (Fifth graders will be issued a new device upon entering 9th grade.)

 

Devices will be issued with a Targus carrying case that is designed to either be carried alone, or slip inside of a regular sized backpack. The students will be required to carry the device in its case, in order to protect the district’s investment in these devices.

 

Phase III will be to continue issuing devices at 5th and 9th grade, each year, until we are fully implemented in a 1:1 environment in grades 3-12.

 

At the end of each four-year cycle (after 8th grade and 12th grade), we anticipate rotating the devices out of service.

 

The District has trained our staff on the implementation of these devices, and teachers have begun adapting their existing lessons to leverage the advantages that these devices can provide to the learning process.

 

The District will continue to offer training opportunities to staff, including a brand-new Teaching With Technology Leadership Academy, which will begin this fall, and allow teachers to earn multiple levels of certification.

 

All of this is designed to make our staff more comfortable and familiar with technology, and to facilitate the process of incorporating this technology into their daily lesson plans.

 

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Greg Kruse, center, was the first Washington High School freshman issued a Chromebook during registration.

SDOW to Begin Next Phase of iBelieve Initiative in Fall 2015

The School District of Washington is pleased to announce the next phase of progress in the District’s iBelieve initiative. Starting this fall (2015), the District will begin the next round of deployment of our 1:1 computing plan.

 

The iBelieve initiative includes a 1:1 computing model for students in grades three through twelve. This is one portion of a larger shift in our educational culture. Labor statistics indicate jobs of the future will be highly technical in nature. Students moving on to higher education will be experiencing learning management systems and myriad of technical applications.

 

Learning is becoming more personal and engaging. The skills of the 21st Century and beyond will require proficiency in information literacy, critical thinking, problem solving, communication, and collaboration.

 

In case you’re unfamiliar with the plan, here is an overview. The initial round of deployment was to third and fourth grade students. This year, each 3rd and 4th grade room received a laptop cart with a device for each student. These “stay at school” devices have been used quite extensively so far, and the feedback has been extremely positive.  

 

The next phase will be a roll out of take-home devices to grades 5, 6, 9, 10, 11 and 12. Starting this fall (2015), each student, in these grades, will be issued a Lenovo 11e Yoga Chromebook, along with a protective bag, that they will be able to take home daily. It will be treated much like a textbook in that each student will be issued one, and they will be responsible for the device.  Unlike textbooks, though, the student will keep the same device for up to four years.  (Fifth graders will be issued a new device upon entering 9th grade.)

 

Devices will be issued with a carrying case of some sort (the style has not been finalized as of yet). The students will be required to carry the device in this issued case, in order to protect the district’s investment in these devices. 

 

Additionally, the school district will be moving laptop carts to Washington Middle School, allowing for significant technology integration there until the district is fully phased in to a 1:1 environment.

 

“The initiative is not about gadgets or technology, it’s about learning.  We have to exercise our due diligence and prepare our students for a highly interactive environment.  It’s our responsibility to ensure equitable access to the tools that teachers and students need for modern learning,” said Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer. “This doesn’t mean we abandon books, writing or traditional methods entirely. It just means we engage students for their futures, not ours.  We will be talking a great deal about how to be good digital citizens. As we progress through this spring and prepare for deployment in the fall, Q&A’s will be developed along with parent meetings and deployment schedules organized.”

 

The District has already begun training staff on the implementation of these devices in the classroom, and teachers have begun adapting their existing lessons to leverage the advantages that these devices can provide to the learning process. This began with two days of training this past summer, led by teachers from Mooresville Graded School District. 

 

We will continue to provide training opportunities for staff, including a follow up from Mooresville GSD, sessions on PD days, and after school workshops.  The District will also soon be unveiling our new Technology Academy which teachers will be able to participate in, and earn multiple levels of certification. All of this is designed to make our staff more comfortable and familiar with technology, and to facilitate the process of incorporating this technology into their daily lesson plans.

 

We will also be providing some informational sessions to parents in the upcoming months, and we are also developing some basic training for parents on what to expect from the devices, how to care for them, the need for supervision, classroom expectation, etc… These training sessions will be required before the student is issued a device.

 

Incidentally, a quick word about our adoption of Chromebooks. The IT department has been opposed to the selection of Chromebooks  for some time, as they are extremely limited in their functionality.  Essentially, Chromebooks can be thought of as lower-end laptops that will only run a Google Chrome browser. In other words, they are Internet browsers. 

 

However, with the introduction of the Lenovo 11e Yoga, the playing field has opened up a bit, and the quality of the devices are no longer a concern for us. These devices are very sturdy and fairly robust in design and performance. 

 

This alone, however, was not enough to sway our IT staff. However, if we use these devices in conjunction with our Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), then we will have leveled the playing field, and made the Chromebooks a viable option. What this means for students is that we can provide them with a lower-cost, but high performance, ruggedized device, and still allow them access to the familiar Windows platform and software that they have become accustomed to, and that the rest of the world holds as the standard. We do that through the VDI. 

 

Basically, students will log on to the Chromebooks, then log on to the VDI.  There they will have an actual Windows 7 desktop with access to all the software they normally use (Word, PowerPoint, etc…), their Home directory, other network drives, and even printers. 

 

The District believes this to be the best solution for all stakeholders, as it allows us to meet the needs of today’s learners, as well as provide the fiduciary responsibility that our patrons expect.

iBelieve Initiative Continues to Progress

The School District of Washington’s iBelieve Initiative continues to progress in efforts to help instruct, inform, innovate and inspire students through the use of educational technology.

 

The iBelieve initiative kicked off during the 2013-2014 school year. The year prior, a focus group was established to research, discuss and establish goals designed to move the district forward in the area of technology integration and 21st Century learning. 

 

As a result, pilot groups formed, Wi-Fi infrastructure upgrades occurred in all buildings, and strategic plans for software, digital tool integration and student to computer ratios improvements began.

 

Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, third- and fourth-grade classrooms will be in a 1:1 (student to computer) environment as each teacher will have classroom sets of laptops for student use.   

 

“The laptops aren’t what is important. Engaging students in modernized ways with tools that spark and personalize their learning is the name of the game,” said Washington Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer.

 

Third through 12th-grade teachers completed two days of training prior to the start of the 2014-15 school year.  Teachers and technology coaches from the Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina came to Washington to work closely with the staff. 

 

“Mooresville has been in a 1:1 environment for grades 3-12 for seven years,” VanLeer said. “They have become experts in student engagement and technical integration of learning tools.”

 

Staff members agreed that the Mooresville training sessions were beneficial.

 

“The teachers walked away empowered to blend electronic applications into their curriculum,” said Four Rivers Career Center Assistant Director Andy Robinson. “The training was very beneficial in providing a method of thinking about lessons, how they relate to the course objectives and ultimately how to most effectively implement these applications in making the best instruction decisions. It will bridge the gap between 20th century education to 21st century students.” 

 

Ann Bolzenius, Alternative Education instructor at WHS and WMS, believes the training will pay dividends in the long run.

 

“The two-day workshop led by Mooresville was superb. In 33 years of teaching, I walked away with my head spinning and filled with great, easy to use and  free resources,” Bolzenius said. “Mooresville was a great resource. The workshop was led by teachers who are using the technology daily. It was great to hear firsthand the challenges they faced the first two years.

 

“The success of the Washington School Districts transition to more technology is based on teacher training.  The hands-on workshops are the most beneficial and must be ongoing. Now we need to get to one-on-one devices for students. I’m glad the district has the iBelieve team.  Let's hope in six years that Washington will be the premiere Missouri school training others around the state and the nation.”

 

Melissa Golder, fourth-grade teacher at Labadie Elementary, also was impressed by the training.

 

“Our two days of Mooresville training were the best two days of professional development I have had as an educator. I was able to learn directly from a classroom teacher about how she manages her classroom that also is 1:1.  As a teacher who will have a laptop for every student in my classroom, this training was invaluable,” Golder said. “My new favorite sites I learned from my Mooresville trainer are Blendspace and Symbaloo – both of which I used on Day 1 in my classroom. That is the type of practical, useful and real-world training that was needed. Friends in other districts can't believe that my classroom is 1:1.

 

“I’m so excited about the iBelieve initiative, because I feel that it shows an investment in our students. I also feel a great responsibility to use these new classroom resources with fidelity. I really do believe.”

 

The School District of Washington has a plan to merge from a BYOD environment (Bring Your Own Device) to a 1:1 environment over the next few years. 

 

Students in grades 5-12 will eventually be in a true 1:1 environment, with each student issued a device.  This effort takes time, resources and support to work.  Planning groups are working diligently to achieve this goal.  Teachers are being trained and encouraged to try new tools in the classroom. 

 

More information will be shared regarding this initiative as the school year progresses.