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Auburn School District, Auburn, Washington

#TechConnect: Connecting teachers, technology and instruction
District: 
Auburn School District
State: 
Washington
Program category: 
Award Cycle: 

In 2014, the community in Auburn, Washington, voted for a $22 million technology levy, a vote that increased local property taxes so the Auburn School District could provide 1-to-1 learning in grades 2 through 12. 

Chromebooks, powered by Intel Celeron processors, were deployed to classrooms over the next two years, and by January 2018, all students and teachers will have their own. 

“We chose Chromebooks and G Suite for their affordability and scalability,” says Vicki Bates, assistant superintendent of technology. “Students can still work on their Chromebooks at home even if they don’t have internet access by using Google Classroom and Docs. They can then connect to their drives when they return to school.”

To help educators learn how to effectively teach with this new technology, the district received a Race to the Top grant from the U.S. Department of Education, which has been used to fund PD. In the 2015-16 school year, 150 teachers from the Auburn Teacher Leadership Academy—a group of educators from Auburn schools—met three times over the summer and three days during the school year to create the #TechConnect PD conference.

The district’s technology department has since organized two annual #TechConnect conferences in April 2016 and 2017.

The main event at these PD conferences is a series of breakout sessions—small group exercises of about 10 to 30 participants. Teachers can choose which three of the available 30 they want to attend.

“The breakout sessions were 55 minutes but we ex-tended them by 20 minutes based on exemplary feedback to allow more time for practice and feedback,” says Bates.

During each session, ample time is allotted for participants to try the new practices they have just learned while the lessons are still fresh in their minds. 

In the first year, many sessions were “how-tos” related to Google Drive and Google Apps for Education, says Bates. The 2017 sessions were geared toward subject area and pedagogical applications, such as culturally responsive practices with technology, new approaches for balanced math, pairing 21st century skills with literacy and art using the Storybird app, and empowering students with technology for all learners. 

For the first 2016 conference, the district invited 25 teachers as presenters. Now the district surveys staff on who should present at future events and what trends should be explored. “We put out calls for presenters to solicit interest, too,” says Bates.

About 150 teachers took part in #TechConnect in 2016. Participation rose to 210 the next year.

Teachers who participate receive $150 per day while presenters earn $150 for 90 minutes of presenting. Originally these funds were provided through the Race to the Top grant; now, because the grant has expired, the district uses funds from the State of Washington. “The general fund from Washington is a more reliable resource and is important for sustainability,” says Bates.

The continuation of spring #TechConnect conferences along with spinoff events has created a web of shoulder-to-shoulder supports for teachers as they strive to model a growth mindset for themselves and students. The engagement of staff in the work has also bolstered acceptance. 

Given the popularity of #TechConnect, the district now provides additional, shorter workshops in August to prepare teachers for the beginning of school. The district has also formed the 1:1 Secondary Institute, which provides training on using and managing the hardware and software the district employs in its 1-to-1 learning.