Friday, February 21, 2014

1 Device 1 Student- How it Has Worked So Far...

This debate student is taking video
of his extemporaneous speech
using an iPad Mini to practice and
critique himself.
This year I have been working with Mount Jordan Middle School to implement a 1:1 device initiative that is the first of its kind and scale in our district.  When the year began the teachers were all presented (many for the first time) a new iPad and some basic navigatory instructions.  They were told that they would be receiving a class set of devices (Chromebooks or iPad Minis).  The teachers were excited, but there was some apprehension due to lack of experience of having technology this integrated daily into every class.  A few months and a few professional development experiences later, they received their respective carts of devices.  Today, they are being used by the teachers in new and impressive ways that has shown me how brave and ambitious these teachers truly are to bring this tech to their students and integrate it into the core instruction.

In any school there are people who are more technology savvy than others.  This group of teachers is a fairly normal sample of technology understanding that could be typically seen in most schools.  What has made them so successful in implementing the technology in such a relatively short amount of time?

This  7th grade student is using TapTap Blocks App to
find the surface area of 3-D figures on an iPad Mini.
First, there has been support for development and learning about great tools like Nearpod and other apps that support the curriculum.  There is a full-time dedicated field tech who has quickly tackled malfunctioning equipment and network issues.  This is an incredibly valuable part of helping everyone to use these tools as fully as they can.  Having Ed Tech Specialists in the building regularly has also helped make this 1:1 initiative a growing success.  Rachel Murphy and I are the Ed Techs working with the teachers to develop management practices and classroom application.  We are both teachers, so it is great to be able to use what we know about teaching and curricular content to help teachers to find purposeful uses for the devices with students that align with state and district instructional priorities.  It has been quite rewarding helping the teachers prepare for this amazing access to engaging technology tools.  They are seeing that the students are fairly accustomed to trying new things with technology.  Many teachers have been pleasantly surprised how easy it has been to direct students to utilize these tools and help one another when troubleshooting is needed.

This 6th grade student is using Nearpod to participate
in a class discussion about Early trade Routes
using a Chromebook.
Another component that has helped this program to be somewhat successful in our middle school is the use of a Learning Management System (LMS) to help students to experience a blended learning approach.  Our district is using Canvas.  Teachers are using it with their students to turn in assignments, take quizzes, and find study materials related to what they are learning in class.  I think that this important to help teachers to have a structure to build curriculum and make instruction available online and assignments more paperless.  It also gives a clear way to use the devices as a textbook and creation tool.  Our district has also added access to a Google Docs domain (CSDdocs) that allows students to collaborate, create, share, and receive feedback from peers and teachers.  It integrates well with our LMS, Canvas.

Finally, there has been a level of accountability for teachers and students to use the devices in the classroom that has helped everyone to push themselves to use them daily in classroom activity.  These teachers have put forth an amazing effort to take risks and to get comfortable with the technology along side the students.  We have had multiple all-day "Technology Days" where teachers get to showcase their efforts with technology use in their regular lessons for members of the community during the school day.  The teachers have risen to the occasion and prepared instruction that uses these devices effectively.  I have been so impressed by how resourceful they have been in finding great tools and applications for their students.  To view the Twitter Feed from our latest Technology Showcase check #mtjordanrocks.

When reflecting upon the possibilities available to the teachers and students at Mount Jordan Middle School, I see that technology can help teachers teach more effectively and students learn more effectively.  The technology on its own is not the answer.  I think of a well crafted musical instrument.  If played by a skilled musician, it can make wonderful music that inspires all who hear.  Conversely, if played by someone who doesn't have these skills- the music is not so inspirational.  If we teach teachers to play the Chromebook or the iPad- they will be able to use it to improve teaching and learning and hopefully inspire.  Without that understanding, it's just a device that distracts- or does nothing at all.          


  1. Thank you for sharing this reflection and description, Katie.

    Apart from technology-related skill improvement, in what ways do you think Mt. Jordan has grown and improved as a result of this project? Can this growth be accurately attributed to the infusion of technology?

    How do you think the success of this program should be measured?

  2. It's difficult to definitively quantify the growth experienced by teachers and students at this point in our process. There's a large amount of anecdotal evidence that students are more enthusiastic about learning and teachers are more excited about teaching in part because of the availability of the technology devices in their rooms. Some involved in this initiative (students and teachers) have seen/observed/demonstrated more enthusiasm than others. It is early in the process to declare victory or defeat, but from what I've experienced with teachers, this program is on a very positive trajectory. Student and Teacher surveys would probably be a good measure of perceived value/success at this point in our implementation.

    I think that one of the most valuable things Mount Jordan Students have learned so far is how these devices can be used for academic purposes. Many of the students have used them recreationally, but using "personal" devices for school is a new concept. They are learning to use productivity apps like Drive and PDF annotation apps in ways they would be used in business by adults. This is also forcing teachers to use modern tools to do their jobs as well. They are implementing an AVID program that aims to teach them to be successful students who know how to study, learn, and organize. We have seen some successes in using the tech tools to reinforce its philosophy. Using technology in this way is such an organic way to help them be career and college ready.