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Technology 2020 Report

Northwest Allen County Schools
29 May 2012

The Charter and Vision
The Technology 2020 Committee was formed in the fall of 2010 for the purpose of setting the direction of technology for Northwest Allen County Schools. The committee of 30 teachers, 5 administrators and technology director began with discussions of skills needed for student success and ways technology can enhance student achievement, engage students in their learning, challenge and support students while maintaining a healthy and safe learning environment.
A few of the student learning goals include:

  • Students are effective researchers, finding appropriate resources, using critical thinking skills to discern between reliable and unreliable sources, and evaluating important versus unimportant information.
  • Students use technology to their advantage, efficiently producing evidence of their learning and effectively presenting that learning to others in and out of the classroom.
  • Students are encouraged to be creative thinkers and to use technology to enhance their creativity.
  • Students become productive members of an online community, sharing their work to a broader audience within the school or beyond, communicating clearly and responsibly.
  • Students are engaged in the curriculum, excited about their learning and participating in the process.
  • Students are able to personalize their learning, discovering their own best methods for mastering a subject and able to use multiple tools to achieve understanding.
  • We believe these skills will allow students to continue their learning well after their formal education years.

    The Process
    The committee spent the first year of meetings in discussion about the student learning, exploration of available technology tools, and research into practices in place at other districts. Some of the physical tools reviewed included computers, laptops, tablets, eReaders, iPod/Droid devices, and teaching tools such as clickers, interactive whiteboards and tablets, and document cameras. We also reviewed software and online resources such as Moodle, Glogster, Google Docs, Wiki's, Twitter, and Facebook.
    In our second year, we launched pilot projects with iPad tablets, Lenovo Android-based tablets, and 12" Lenovo laptops. The laptops and Lenovo tablets were placed into middle school classrooms in full classroom sets. The iPads were placed into elementary classrooms in sets of five or six units for use in learning centers and with small groups. Since the middle and elementary schools are not fully wireless, access points were needed in each classroom with the devices during the pilot period. Work was done over Winter Break to add capacity to the school wiring closets to support the additional access points.
    Student and teacher feedback on the pilots was overwhelmingly positive. The devices were used to conduct research, facilitate discussion, complete assignments, practice math and spelling skills, write papers, take tests, collaborate, and more. Teachers reported increased student engagement and faster access to resources for research and discussion.
    Also in the second year, a policy change was implemented for staff, allowing easier access to some video and social media sites such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. This allows teachers to use these sites in presentations to students and to research other ways these sites might be useful in education. In the spring of 2012, My Big Campus was launched. This online learning community allows student access to approved video content and has many features found in Moodle such as discussion forums, online assignments and test taking. Like Moodle, the discussions are fully monitored in the protected environment, but the format is friendlier than Moodle. Several classes have been exploring the site with good results.

    The Recommendation
    Throughout the pilot period, the committee discussed the uses of the technology, how the above student learning needs were being met, and whether the project merited expansion. The elementary classrooms had piloted devices in small numbers for each classroom. While this was sufficient for some projects, the teachers soon realized that a greater impact would be achieved when every student had a device at hand.
    The consensus was that having a device in the hands of every student, every day would have a tremendous impact on student learning. For students in the upper grades, allowing the devices to go home would extend the learning opportunities beyond the school day. Devices for younger students would primarily remain at school, but an option to occasionally send them home for special projects would be beneficial.
    For students in kindergarten through grade two, the recommendation is the iPad tablet. These devices are physically manageable and intuitive to use for students of this age, and there is a wealth of free or inexpensive apps targeted to younger students.
    For students in grades three through twelve, the recommendation is a laptop. The 12" model used in the pilots is a very convenient size but still provides all the benefits of a computer. A larger screen may be better for high school students. With a laptop, students have Internet access and use of the full Microsoft Office suite for word processing, spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations. The physical keyboard is preferred by most when a lot of typing is required and the Windows platform is familiar to staff and students without significant retraining. The Indiana DOE now requires online testing multiple times a year - ISTEP was online for grades 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8 at all schools, IREAD was online for grade 3 in two schools, and ECA testing is online for all Algebra, English 10, and Biology students. All of this online testing is only compatible with computers and cannot be administered on tablets at this time. If NACS were to move to iPads or another tablet for the upper grades, we still would have to maintain computer labs to be used for online testing.
    The committee envisions that the need for physical textbooks would rapidly decline for most subjects once these devices are in students' hands. Much curricular content is already available online and more can be developed by NACS teachers. When students are able to access their course materials with a device, the bulk and expense of physical textbooks can be eliminated. There may remain certain subjects and certain levels that would continue to benefit more from the physical text, but the device can provide access to more options for many areas.
    Several teachers are already "flipping" their classroom, having students use traditional homework time to review the lecture material so that class time can be used for review, practice, and discussion of that material. This method provides student access to the teacher for more than just a lecture, and having a device available optimizes that out of classroom learning.
    Appropriate professional development is a critical component of such an implementation of devices or a move away from traditional textbooks. In the committee's experience with the pilots and review of other districts' implementations, it quickly became apparent that staff must be fully supported or the investment will be lost. Technical support in maintaining the wireless infrastructure, devices and programs is important, but teacher support in the use of the tools is even more critical. When each student is equipped with such a powerful tool every day, the classroom environment can change so that teachers are able to do more facilitation of learning and less direct instruction. Teachers will need professional development before a large-scale implementation and support during at least the first few years of the new environment. A lack of support would likely lead to many devices sitting unused, or being used only at very superficial levels without a true impact on learning.

    The Impact
    The Technology 2020 Committee realizes the financial impact of a program such as the one being recommended. The cost of the devices, infrastructure, and professional and technical support is significant. However, the benefit to students in the form of enhanced achievement, increased engagement, and personalized learning is also significant. The committee is excited to help find ways to make this opportunity a reality for NACS students.

    Technology 2020 Committee Members

    Name School Position
    Diane Barton Hickory Center Elem Teacher - Music
    Mark Bruns Perry Hill Elem Teacher- Grade 4
    Brad Carnahan Oak View Elem Teacher - Grade 4
    Tonya Chastain Hickory Center Elem Teacher - Grade K/3
    Sara Davis Maple Creek Middle Teacher - Math/English
    Barb Dawson Cedar Canyon Elem Teacher - Grade 4
    Andy Deatrick Carroll Freshman Teacher - Science
    Adela Dickey NACS Technology Director
    Josh Eme Carroll High Teacher - Social Studies
    Chris Etter Maple Creek Middle Teacher - Industrial Tech
    Katy Geisleman Cedar Canyon Elem Teacher - Grade Pre-K
    Nicole Germann Perry Hill Elem Teacher - Grade 1
    Becky Gongwer Huntertown Elem Teacher - Grade K
    Marie Hanes Carroll High Teacher - Mathematics
    Lonnie Heck Carroll Freshman Teacher - World Languages
    Jeremy Heidenreich Carroll Middle Guidance Counselor
    Michele Herr Carroll High Teacher - Science
    Deb Houghton NACS Media Specialist
    Bryan Koehlinger Carroll Middle Teacher - Math
    Jeremy McFarren Carroll High Teacher - Art
    John Miller Carroll Middle Principal
    Deb Neumeyer Carroll High Principal
    Liz O'Connor Eel River Elem Teacher - Grade 3
    Deb Papagiannis Eel River Elem Teacher - Grade 2
    Kathleen Perfect Arcola Elem Principal
    Gary Platt Carroll High Teacher - Industrial Tech
    Gloria Shamanoff NACS Assistant Superintendent
    Jasmine Sloffer Huntertown Elem Teacher - Grade 5
    Tim Sloffer Carroll High Teacher - Mathematics
    Andrea Smith Oak View Elem Teacher - Grade 1
    Kyle Spencer Cedar Canyon Elem Teacher - Grade 4
    Abby Tigulis Maple Creek Middle Teacher - Science
    Nico Tigulis Carroll High Teacher - Physical Education
    Courtney Veith Carroll High Assistant Principal
    Rick Vorick Hickory Center Elem Principal
    Brett Windmiller Carroll Middle Teacher - Social Studies
    Anna Windsor Arcola Elem Teacher - Grade 5