Taking an Inclusive Approach to 1:1
The Pennsbury School District in Pennsylvania has embarked on a wide ranging Future Ready initiative, seeking to provide ubiquitous access to technology for its 10,500 students while creating a culture of digital, personalized teaching and learning. The initiative included replacing outdated desktops and shared laptop carts with 1:1 Chromebooks and updating the district’s technology infrastructure. Crucial to its success, has been taking an inclusive approach to ensure that the perspectives of all members of the community were included in developing the initiative.
In this web seminar, technology leaders from Pennsbury discussed the program, as well as strategies for taking an inclusive approach to 1:1 and other technology initiatives in any district.
- Kevin C. Dorsey, M.Ed.
Director of Technology, Pennsbury School District (Penn.)
- Mandy Lutz
Educational Technology Specialist, Pennsbury School District
- Brad McCormick, M.Ed.
Supervisor of Educational Technology, Pennsbury School District
Kevin Dorsey: We first had to build up community committees. This included not only district administration and district personnel, but also involving our parent-teacher organizations and our teachers from all levels.
We had stakeholders from across the district looking at the 1-to-1 implementation plan—how all these devices and technology should impact our curriculum and space, our policies and procedures, and our sustainability and funding.
Before we began rolling it out, we wanted to make sure that our instruction was going to align to rigorous college and career readiness standards, as well as the social and emotional skills of our students.
The main goal was making sure that we allowed for personalized learning opportunities where students are able to focus on their interests and talents, and making sure that each student had ubiquitous access to the same technology.
When it came to picking a platform, we needed to find a cost-saving solution that would allow us to put the technology into the hands of our students. We engaged with several Chromebook manufacturers, and settled on working with Acer because they provided us not only with devices that were cost-effective, but devices that were built well, built sturdy, and would be able to withstand the use of students and backpacks.
Mandy Lutz: The core principles that we wanted were that the 1-to-1 program was going to be available to everyone, everywhere; it needed to be guaranteed through a solid network and Wi-Fi structure that could handle the entire district load; and it had to be set up around personalized learning.
Kevin Dorsey: Last spring we had a town hall meeting where we provided demonstrations of the Acer 731 Chromebook, which we had selected for our students in grades 6 through 12. We also aired the presentation on our live district TV channel and posted on our website for later viewing. We had Google representatives at the presentation, about 400 parents came, and it was the kickoff to start spreading the word and getting the buy-in that we needed for this program to be successful.
Brad McCormick: Before we bought all of these Chromebooks, we tested a few different ones. We have a video of my nephew actually trying to break the Acer 731 to show how durable it is. From that point we needed to start planning how to get all these devices in hands of 5,500 students.
They have the option to co-pay $40, which allows them to take the device home, and we offer a $15 financial hardship payment for lower-income families. We also have a whole bunch of donors—from local businesses to PTOs—giving money to pay for students who might not be able to afford even the $15 payment. We currently operate at a 98 percent rate, where 98 percent of those 5,500 students have a Chromebook that they take home.
Mandy Lutz: We designated our William Penn Middle School as our deployment center because it was a place that we can store all of the 5,500 Chromebooks securely. It had the ability to handle vehicle traffic as well as the ability to handle the crowds coming through. We had various times and different days over the summer through a three-week period, so that folks could come in and pick up when it was convenient.
Brad McCormick: Once we had Chromebooks in every student’s hand, we needed to make the teachers comfortable using the technology available to them. Mandy and I are the PD team for our 800-plus staff members, but luckily we have a lot of awesome teachers who are unofficial go-to PD. We run summer workshops where we offer various topics of presentations in a.m. and p.m. sessions, so teachers can hit multiple topics in one day.
Mandy Lutz: We wanted our Digital Citizenship Program embedded across the curriculum. Key departments designed the Digital Citizenship curriculum, tying it in to the common sense media resources.
At the middle school level, our librarians reinforce digital citizenship through lessons on research and how to locate reputable sites, understanding copyright, citing proper resources, and working on social media and online safety. Through the social studies program, they’re filtering out fake news and citing good sources and plagiarism. At our high school level, the librarians are covering digital citizenship with each of the grade levels through various classes, such as in ninth grade through the English department, and in 10th grade through the social studies department, to ensure each student receives appropriate training every year.
To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please visit: www.districtadministration.com/ws030618