Student Access to Technology = Increased Return on Instruction

As discussed in a prior post, the first step of our technology plan was to provide every teacher with a laptop. All faculty members having access to technology was a crucial first step in addressing past equity issues and has allowed our teachers to become comfortable with technology before having students demonstrate their prowess.

Once our equity issues were solved at the adult level, the next phase of our technology plan called for ubiquitous access for students – meaning every student would have access to technology every second of every day. Until recently, student access to technology was inconsistent and unequally distributed. Whether a student had access to digital tools was purely based on rostering, as some students sat in classrooms with multi touch SMART boards and classroom sets of iPads, while others sat in neighboring classrooms struggling through lessons with obsolete technology or worse.

Setting the stage for 1:1 was a belief that EVERY student deserved access to technology, no matter whose homeroom list they were placed. Moving away from purchasing devices towards leasing, and creatively addressing our high school BYOD shortcomings, we will achieve our goal of 100% student and staff access to a mobile device before next school year.

Having access to technology has given our students the ability to demonstrate their learning in new and exciting ways. Our students are documenting their learning by creating more digital artifacts than ever before. Students are writing blogs, creating amazing videos, publishing personal portfolios, and now learning to code… starting in kindergarten!

As an example, in Mr. McLaughlin’s 4th-grade classroom, students create digital science portfolios for their Motion and Design unit. Motion and Design explore basic concepts of physics, engineering, and design. This “documented learning” allows students to evaluate their learning through an analytical and summative process. According to Mr. McLaughlin, “the learning is ongoing and the students have creative freedom while actively synthesizing, internalizing, and collaborating with each other as they explore ways to effectively communicate to the world.  The portfolios are a comprehensive and accurate assessment of each student’s understanding.” This is Mr. McLaughlin’s second year with an iPad cart and while he is an extraordinary teacher and works extremely hard at his craft, he is not alone.

Providing every student in our district with access to a device certainly takes a lot of planning, budgeting, and professional learning. The results have been amazing. As more of our teachers and students are exposed to the benefits of having technology in the classroom, I expect not only an increase in student engagement but also an increase in ROI or “return on instruction.”

Return on Instruction (ROI) is a phrase borrowed from Eric Sheninger (@E_Sheninger). His blog, A Principal’s Reflection, provides great insights into educational leadership as well as effective and purposeful technology integration strategies.