Apr 28, 2017 2017-04-28By John Hutton
How We Began Our 1:1 Journey
Nearly five years ago, Gurnee District 56 embarked on a journey to equip students in the district with iPads to be used as their primary curriculum delivery tool. As we began that journey, there were no road maps to follow, and many times it felt as if we were walking in a dense forest with no idea what lurked five feet ahead of us. In a truly collaborative effort, we began to clear the forest and discover enough light to chart a clear path forward. We have come so far since then.
The Journey Continues
Initially, we were simply transferring student materials into a digital format. However, through our partnership with Apple, we were able to develop a sophisticated digital curriculum delivery system that moved us on the SAMR (Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition) scale from substitution to redefinition. We can now achieve objectives in classrooms that we were never previously able to accomplish without a digital platform.
As we got better at evolving, we experienced the need to do more. Apple was supportive of us and it was their hope to develop a replicable delivery system using digital tools to enhance learning for all students everywhere. With this mutual goal, we continued to work collaboratively to answer the question, what is next after a 1:1 initiative?
Next Steps: Clarifying Expectations
The underpinning of our 1:1 initiative was the vision statement we crafted 10 years ago when I joined the district team as superintendent. The team for the 1:1 initiative was comprised of our director of technology, assistant superintendent of curriculum and assessment, director of pupil services, director of business, an assistant principal, STEM director, and myself. My team and I were adamant that the 1:1 initiative had to be the bridge that carried us to the ideals of our vision statement. If the end result was not significant learning gains by students, then the initiative was not worth the time or money invested. Our 1:1 initiative passed the litmus test for student learning gains.
In determining the next step, we were clear in our expectations; the next step must align with the pillars of our vision statement, including the following:
- It must promote one year of growth for each year of school experience.
- Students must have choice in what and how they learn.
- Feedback must be an integral aspect of the experience.
- Extensive professional development should be a significant part of the implementation.
Based on the tenets of our vision statement, we developed three new initiatives to move us forward.
Initiative 1: Immersion of Computer Science Principles Across All Discipline Areas
Students with a strong background in computer science develop deductive reasoning skills that will help them improve their mathematics skills. However, the most important reason to introduce computer science as early as possible is that children's minds are coded to learn this way. We have introduced coding to our kindergarten through grade 2 students this year and, without exception, every teacher has noted that students are innately more prepared to learn computer science than the teachers are. By giving students choice in how they learn, most students migrate toward using coding and computer science as a basis for reinforcing already learned material and learning new material.
Initiative 2: Focusing on Blended Learning
We divided blended learning into three categories.
Guided Reading, Flipped Classrooms, Small Group and Teacher-led Activities, Group Projects
Prior to the 1:1 initiative, most of our classrooms were teacher led with little or no differentiated instruction for students needing additional assistance. With a digital platform, we have increased small group and personalized learning opportunities for students. Teachers use the iPads to monitor and track student progress while they are working with other students who need additional assistance to master the identified standards. The digital platform has also allowed students to receive personalized learning activities as prescribed by the results of their assessments.
Beginning next school year, we will offer our first online Spanish course. Our goal is to replace traditional homework experiences by providing students online courses to allow them to receive additional learning opportunities on subject matters of their own choosing. This is part of our vision statement to permit students the opportunity to learn what they want and how they want.
Finally, we are one of three school districts in Illinois that are permitted to continue the learning process when schools are closed for inclement weather-students learn from home virtually when schools are closed. Although we have not had the opportunity to test a virtual learning day, we have developed concepts we are using as part of our blended learning initiative.
Initiative 3: STEM and Makerspaces as Part of Our Future Ready Libraries
Through STEM labs, makerspaces, and Future Ready libraries, we have developed problem-based learning laboratories to teach students to identify problems, work collaboratively with others to search for solutions, and develop a model to illustrate solutions. These new spaces provide students choice in what and how they learn. In the past, our library may have only had one class use resources in a given class period. Currently, as many as five classes are using the new spaces with a notable level of engagement and a high level of enthusiasm.
Each of the three initiatives has one common theme—the iPad. None of the initiatives would have been possible without our 1:1 iPad initiative, and each is a natural extension of our vision statement for the district. At Gurnee District 56, our next steps have allowed us to develop a learning environment that permits each student to maximize his or her learning opportunities under the direction of our outstanding staff.