On Monday, staff and students from three schools participating in the Idaho Technology Pilot Project presented to the Legislature. McCall-Donnelly High School, Kuna Middle School, and Middleton High School are just a few of the eleven schools that were awarded a portion of the $3 million in funding to implement innovative full integration technology models over two years. The pilot funding is meant to explore devices that can be scaled and replicated in classrooms statewide in the future.
McCall-Donnelly High School is piloting a 1:1 iPad learning environment with 300 students. Kuna Middle School chose Chromebooks for their 800 students. Middleton High School is using a netbook with 1,100 students.
These devices are changing what learning looks like in the classroom. Mariah Gunn, an 8th grade student at Kuna Middle School, told legislators that she and her peers write essays on their Chromebooks, instead of having to go to the computer lab. They also submit assignments to teachers electronically, rather than printing them.
These are just the first steps in implementing the new technology, according to Ashleigh Jensen, the Kuna Educational Technology Specialist. The district is using the Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition (SAMR) model. The first year focuses on substituting the technology device for other previously used tools. Substitution naturally leads to augmentation—such as the word processor spelling checking the document, rather than the student looking up a word up in the dictionary. Next year, the district plans to use the devices to modify and redefine was instruction looks like in the classroom.
An obvious theme in the presentations was the students' deep involvement in the pilot projects. Brooke Thomas, a senior at McCall-Donnelley High School, was instrumental in starting the iPad pilot in her school:
"In December 2012, I went to see my principal, Mr. Thomas, after the 1v1 component of Proposition 3 was voted down. I felt, as a student, adults were disconnected from how students wanted to learn. I wanted to integrate technology into my education. My principal offered to give me an iPad, but only on the condition that I use it to answer the question, ?How could this technology change the way students at McCall-Donnelley High School do school?' Throughout my junior and senior year, I worked on the student component of the new generation of learning at MDHS... The 2013 McCall-Donnelly $150,000 pilot program funded my vision of a next generation learning environment, in which student-centered learning occurs and is student driven."
At Kuna Middle School, a student-led technician group, known as the MOUSE Squad, handles all tier one, basic technical support issues on the devices. Gunn, a member of the MOUSE Squad, told the committee she also helps with checking the devices in and out at the start and finish of each day. She's even taught lessons on internet etiquette to her peers during advisory hour.
Terry Hardy, a Middleton High School teacher, told the committee the technology devices level the playing field for all students. "There are no longer limits to technology at school? Every student at Middleton High School has the opportunity to be successful."
Upon hearing the presentations, legislators had glowing comments and praise for the students. "You have proven that when this is driven by the students and by the ground up, we can make changes, and we need that support," Representative Terry Gestrin told the students from McCall-Donnelly High School, his alma mater. "These changes in education are about improving your opportunities, and we need all the help from you guys and your teachers that we can get. I just want to thank you today."
The schools returned the thanks. Deb McGrath, principal at Kuna Middle School, told the committee that they had a ten-year plan to get devices in the hands of every student, but thanks to the funding from the Legislature, they have sped up that timeline. "We went from a ten-year plan to a one-year plan, and that's fabulous! Thank you very much!"
Rich Bauscher, superintendent of the Middleton School District, expressed similar sentiments. "We'd like to thank you as a committee for taking the initiative to advance the eleven pilots that were funded and are now in process and moving," Bauscher said. "We know our students today are experiencing a new opportunity they would've never had before without this pilot."
To learn more about these schools and the other eight pilots, you can read their mid-year legislative reports at http://www.sde.idaho.gov/site/tech_services/grants_contracts.htm.