For a 1:1 initiative to be successful, it is important to consider the student learning objectives, not just the technology for its own sake. Utilizing technology effectively in the classroom can facilitate and enhance collaborative, problem-based learning experiences. This web seminar, originally presented on September 26, 2013, featured administrators from Baldwin County (Ala.) Public Schools and their implementation of a 1:1 program in a district with 30,000 students. This “Digital Renaissance” initiative included intensive professional learning with a focus on creating student-centered learning environments.
Alan T. Lee
Baldwin County Public Schools
Baldwin County’s 35 school sites are located on the Gulf of Mexico and include rural, suburban, and urban communities. I define a “digital renaissance” as fundamentally using technology to improve learning. One of the leaders in our district attended an Apple training conference, where they learned about a unique digital conversion initiative in Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina. This 6,000-student district, which had some of the lowest funding in the state and previously scored in the middle of the pack on tests, had propelled to stardom. Attendance, graduation rates, and test scores rose significantly in the three years after the initiative began.
Upon visiting the district, I observed the empowerment of students. They could learn both on their own and in collaboration with others. We decided to begin our own digital renaissance in one of our high schools. After one semester, improvements were so great that it was decided we needed to provide the same opportunity to our other six high schools. In the fall of 2012, all seven high schools had a 1-to-1 Macbook program. By January 2014, all of our schools will have 1-to-1 initiatives.
Chief Technology Officer
Baldwin County Public Schools
To make this digital renaissance happen, we defined seven critical elements that needed to be addressed:
- Leadership and Vision
- Parent/Community Engagement
- Student-centered Learning
- College and Career Ready Standards
- Shift in Pedagogy/Professional Learning
- 21st-Century Resources and Tools
It has taken the efforts of all administrators, teachers, parents, students, service providers, and the community as a whole to get this achievement off the ground. We have been working extremely closely with our strategic partners, such as Knovation. Your strategic partners have to become integrated within your daily operations for an initiative like this to succeed. The Digital Renaissance package includes a Macbook Air for third through 12th graders. Students in fourth grade and older get to take these devices home. Kindergartners through second graders receive iPads. Along with the device, we provide backpacks to safely transport the devices. We also provide access to world-class content, such as icurio, the digital curriculum solution from Knovation. It is not just about the device, but how the device is leveraged in the classroom. The content is a meaningful part of the equation.
We also provide technical support services to ensure that not only are the devices working, but also they are positioned for success. We see technology as an operational asset, not as a capital expense. Three to 4 percent of our annual budget is devoted to fund this initiative and sustain the Digital Renaissance throughout the coming years. Sustainability requires a commitment from our board, teachers, and administration. We have transformed the IT Department into Educational Technology Support Services. We have shifted from supporting technology to supporting teachers and students. Teachers can go to their instructional transformation specialist for digital coaching. These specialists go into the classroom and show teachers how to use the technology to deliver content and instruction.
At each high school, we have a digital resource specialist, who manages the help desk. That is where teachers and students can go on a daily basis if they have any technical issues. This digital resource specialist is a certified teacher who also oversees the students who work at the help desk.
Secondary Coordinator, Division of Instructional Support
Baldwin County Public Schools
Our challenge from the curriculum and instruction side was to create engaging, student-centered classrooms that use digital tools to support mastery of the college and career ready standards. We knew our teachers needed professional development to understand the rigor and high expectations of the new College and Career Ready Standards. We also wanted our teachers to be comfortable using technology and digital resources like icurio. And with 2,200 teachers, we knew we needed to rely on teacher leaders to spread the fire and passion for student-centered learning throughout the district. This change needed to be a grassroots change, driven by teachers.
To address these elements, we developed a professional development program called the Digital Renaissance Learning Leadership Academy. We had about 20 professional development sessions, some online and some in person. Along with College and Career Ready Standards and literacy skills sessions, we included a session on 21st century skills. We wanted teachers to facilitate learning opportunities that supported student collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking. These are the real world skills that employers are looking for and we want our students to be prepared for high-tech jobs in their future. We were very cognizant that technology training on digital tools should not be done in isolation. We wanted teachers to understand project- and challenge-based learning first. If we focused on a change in pedagogy, that would drive the need for these digital tools. Teachers need to learn how to use devices and tools like icurio in the context of project and challenge-based learning. This led to a seamless integration of technology and instruction.
We also developed teacher leadership teams. Each school had about seven teachers in the Academy. These teachers, along with their principals, attended the 20 sessions together. They worked to produce exemplar problem-based learning units that we shared districtwide, and developed a plan to provide professional learning to the other teachers on their campus. We knew we needed a partner who could provide a customized experience built to meet our district’s unique needs.
Vice President, Learning Architecture Services
Knovation’s expertise in professional learning combined with the Baldwin County administrative team’s expertise about their own educators’ needs, district processes and tools made for a great experience as we co-designed professional learning for the Digital Renaissance Leadership Academy. As we began to plan, the district made it clear to us that it was critical that we provide time for reflection and model strategies that teachers could transfer directly to the classroom. This was a great fit for our own approach to professional learning. In leveraging digital solutions like icurio, the focus was on new learning, not on technology. We had a laser focus on shifting teaching practice. icurio was simply an enabler of this shift.
Our flexible content and curriculum building tools supported teachers as they first experienced problem-based learning, and then shared and collaborated on projects using rich digital content. Along the way, we evaluated and refined the professional learning based on the data we gathered during and after each session, including many mid-course corrections. This was hugely important to the success of our program.
Lee: Some of the results we have seen after two years of the digital renaissance at Baldwin County High School include:
- Incidents of disorderly conduct have decreased from 43 to 28
- Defiance of authority decreased from 599 to 236
- Truancy decreased from 269 to 186
- Attendance increased from 91.72 to 93.7
- Dropout rate decreased from 30 students per year to 4
- ACT average increased from 19.2 to 20.1
To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please go to: www.districtadministration.com/ws092613