Students working on desktop computers

What does it mean to have a successful technology ready classroom?

24 Jul 2014 by Heather Breedlove

“What does it mean to have a successful technology ready classroom?” asked Sidney Bailey, an assistant principal, during the District Digital Learning Implementation & Policy Development panel session at ISTEan implementation and policy development panel. Bailey represented Center City Public Charter Schools in Washington D.C., a network of six urban schools that services 1,400 students in grade PreK-8.

This session discussed device implementation and how it looks in both large and small districts. Three key topics were planning, implementation strategies and developing policy.

“Nightmares happen because the devices went into the classroom without any thought of how to monitor them,” said Dr. Lisa Spencer, Director of Technology Training for Prince George Public Schools in Maryland. Prince George is the 19th largest school district, serving a diverse student population from urban, suburban and rural communities.

Implementation of the plan

All of the panelists stressed the importance of having a plan in place. Like Dr. Spencer suggests, the plan should be created before devices are put into the hands of students.

“The whole rollout of the plan for utilizing digital tools is a plan. Before- it’s changing now- but before, we would get tools without a plan in place. Now we have a great team of people pulling together to work on certain things,” said Angela Swainson, instructional technology specialist with the Maryland State Department of Public Schools.

Developing a plan starts with answering the question Bailey is asking. Finding the answer to that one as well as “what should 1:1 look like in the classroom?” and “What does flipped learning look like in the classroom?” –  It’s not enough to see each student on a device, but it’s if true learning is taking place.

Choosing the right device

Device selection is made at the school level, although PARCC requirements are starting to drive the selection. Each Center City Charter School high school uses a different device for their 1:1 program ranging from iPads, Macbook Pros, Chromebooks and Acer tablets.

Prince George Public Schools are not pushing any particular tool. “What are the schools ready to use? We just want them to be prepared to use the technology,” said Dr. Spencer.

One thing that remains the same is “kids are asking for more technology, these kids will always have WiFi access.” said Ronald Miller, instructional specialist for Prince George Public Schools.

Flexibility in creating policy

“In some cases, the policy comes after the fact. In our case, that is exactly what is happening. Our board has moved forward with the decision that BYOD will occur,” said Dr. Spencer. “Our CIO and the technology office is doing the best that they can to make sure that we are ready and prepared to guide with necessary procedure and policy that needs to be in place.”

The district’s acceptable use policy continues to change and reflect the current devices and policies for teachers and students. “Going 1:1 may not be the best solution but kids having access is important, we are looking into BYOD options so they don’t get to 10th grade and don’t have access to technology,” said Miller.

Continued professional development

All panelists recognized the importance of continued professional development for teachers utilizing these technology tools helps drive policy development and implementation.

Center City Public Charter Schools look to utilize teachers as leaders, giving the devices to the teachers who are tech savvy, those who are using technology and are looking for it. Bailey recommends that continual professional development take place so that teachers are supported throughout the year using technology in the classroom. “you want to make sure that the plan is about how it will be executed and how you will support the teachers as well as the students” said Bailey.

Prince George Public Schools support students, teachers, administrators, and community by utilizing instructional specialists and provide district wide technology training opportunities. They also develop teachers as leaders and focus on the ongoing professional development with all the technology tools, helping teachers to grasp and use concepts as they are ready.

“Find someone in your building that wants to try something new,” said Miller. Mr. Timonious Downing, a 7th grade gifted and talented teacher, went from using zero technology to getting a class set of Chromebooks. He turned his classroom into an action classroom of flipped learning and gamification. His classroom and ability is a model for what technology integration looks like for other teachers in his school.

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