Building Schools around Technology

A tech coordinator’s perspective on disruption, re-design, and technology’s role in education.

GUEST COLUMN | by Paul Hieronymus

The modern classroom has undergone dramatic changes over the past few years. Technology has disrupted our notions of how we design our schools and best deliver our curriculum to our students. As the Coordinator of Technology and Communication at the Lakewood City Schools in Ohio, I experienced my school district respond to these changes firsthand.

In 2014, we adopted a 10-year plan that would see all of our schools either rebuilt or renovated to better educate and prepare our students. One of the major focuses of this $100 million remodel was the role that technology would play in our classrooms.

One of the major focuses of this $100 million remodel was the role that technology would play in our classrooms.

Instead of having computer labs where students would go to use technology, we wanted to bring devices directly into our classrooms. Our aim was to create a learning environment where the students could be collaborative while preparing for an increased emphasis on online testing. The remodeling included tearing down three of our seven elementary schools placing them in transitional buildings. Space was an issue in the locations making computer labs a challenge. To effortlessly move the devices around the temporary classrooms and schools, we introduced LocknCharge carts, which then followed us to the new buildings once they opened. We were so pleased with this model that we dismantled our old computer labs in our existing buildings and converted them to mobile labs using the carts.

The carts allowed our educators to move the devices into the temporary buildings and between classrooms during the construction process. Now that we are settled into our new buildings, the carts allow our educators to share devices between classrooms.

We introduced iPads in a 1:3 ratio for grades K-2 and then shifted the students to Chromebooks for grades 2-5 at the same ratio. Second grade is designed to be a buffer year for the students to transition from a tactical learning environment with the iPads to a keyboard-learning environment with the Chromebooks.

With the 1:3 ratio, students are more likely to collaborate as they share the devices, which is why we are not currently trying to establish a 1:1 ratio in our elementary schools. We want to avoid the devices becoming a worksheet on a screen where the students are doing the same things as before, but just on a screen. By combining the use of devices and doing assignments by hand with paper, our goal is to create a learning environment that closely resembles the real-world.

After the two years of construction, we were able to bring the technology into our new, modern classrooms with great success. Our staff and students have become comfortable with the use of the devices and the administration has seen interest in them over the course of the project from the staff, students and their parents.

Our school district consists of approximately 5,200 students from 32 countries with five percent of those students being refugees and eight percent being English language learners. The mobile devices have provided an extra benefit to those students as they can utilize Rosetta Stone and translate extension applications to have materials translated for them as well as translate questions and answers between them and the educators.

Our parents understand the relevance of technology in today’s world so we have seen great responses from them. The students are immersed in this world of technology already so it is important that we have adapted to meet this need. Younger students know that their exposure to technology is only going to increase because we shift to a 1:1 ratio in middle school and high school.

Our school district was presented with a rare opportunity to embrace emerging technology while revamping our classrooms. With mobile devices, we have been able to create mobile device-friendly learning environments that help us cater our instruction to our students’ needs and better prepare them for what’s ahead.

Crosby on Eden: Carrier 10 Charging Station Deployment

Crosby on Eden: Carrier 10 Charging Station Deployment

Crosby on Eden School sits right on the edge of the River Eden and in December 2015 the county was hit by widespread flooding; including Crosby. They lost all of their ICT equipment and a lot of their other learning resources. They were in dire need of a solution that would allow them to safely secure against potential future flooding damage and charge their devices throughout the day.

Deploying Devices
After a generous donation, Crosby on Eden was able to fund the purchase of new laptops, but weren’t able to store them safely. The LocknCharge Carrier 10 Charging Station was the perfect fit for the solution they wanted. When the Carrier 10’s arrived, one was set up in each of the temporary classrooms, whilst the school was being renovated after the flood. Becuase of their design, the Carrier 10 Charging Stations were easily transported into the main building after it was renovated post-flood. Each teacher was able to have their devices in their classroom and accessible when needed, while knowing that once locked, the devices were secure.

Continue Reading Crosby on Eden’s Testimonial.

San Lorenzo Unified School District: California district deploys ambitious 1:1 initiative to increase student engagement and achievement

California district deploys ambitious 1:1 initiative to increase student engagement and achievement

An education-first mindset

San Lorenzo Unified School District (USD) had maintained a traditional, department-based structure comprised of a Director of IT and a Director of Instructional Materials and Technology until Superintendent Fred Brill integrated the services of both departments and placed an educator at the helm. This new approach to technology prioritized teaching and learning objectives and put the needs of students first.

Where most school districts have a business-minded IT Director, San Lorenzo USD has Sam Sakai-Miller. An educator at heart, she taught for 10 years, served as a Curriculum Coordinator, is a published author and researcher, and earned advanced degrees in educational technology. Sakai-Miller’s hybrid roles as Director of Technology Integration Services is new to the district.

Challenges and possibilities
San Lorenzo USD isn’t your typical school district, either. Nearly three-quarters of the district’s students are eligible for free or reduced price meals, are English language learners, foster students, homeless or in special education. Adding to the complexity is the fact that many students have limited access to technology outside of school. Under these conditions, an achievement gap took hold.

California’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) and associated need-based funding afforded San Lorenzo USD the chance institute monumental, far-reaching technology upgrades. But district administrators acknowledged quickly that access to technology alone would do little to turn the tide. What they needed – and what Sakai-Miller rendered – was a teacher-centered plan to create a groundswell of support and galvanize the district’s mission to close the achievement gap.

In 2014, that plan arrived as Project LEAN In.

 Aspiration and reality  
If Project LEAN In is anything, it’s ambitious. The plan is to implement a 1:1 student-to-device ratio in all classrooms as a way of increasing student engagement and achievement.

“Going 1:1 isn’t easy,” Sakai-Miller said. “It takes funding, professional learning, community buy-in and probably more patience than anyone expects. Project LEAN In is succeeding because it addresses those challenges directly and values teachers’ point of view. It’s really not just about the devices.”

This sober, methodical perspective is apparent in the thoughtful way San Lorenzo USD structured Project LEAN In. Rather than simply purchasing scores of devices, dropping them into classrooms and walking away, Sakai-Miller and her staff devised a cycle-based technology rollout. In each of the three cycles, dubbed “cohorts” at San Lorenzo USD, teachers can apply to receive a LocknCharge cart full of Google Chromebooks and up to $1,000 in stipends.

The process is rigorous, competitive and fun. Once selected, teachers participate in a deliberate implementation plan that includes initial training, follow-up sessions, troubleshooting help and coaching from teachers on special assignment (TSA). At the kickoff, teachers complete eight sessions in all, giving them the knowledge, technical skills and – importantly – confidence to run a 1:1 classroom to its full potential.

Teachers are so enthusiastic about the program that San Lorenzo USD invented a system of professional learning badges to recognize their growth. They are also encouraged to blog about their journey.  

Practical considerations
Sakai-Miller’s decade of classroom teaching experience makes her especially attune to the needs of educators. She realized from the onset that the process of deploying Chromebooks to every student, every class period would rob teachers of precious instructional time. What’s more, the devices need be recharged regularly and stored securely.  

Because of these practical needs, LocknCharge carts are central to San Lorenzo USD’s 1:1 initiative. Instead of a singular distribution point, teachers use eight baskets throughout their classrooms to quickly disburse and collect their Chromebooks. The devices are charged once for the day, and they’re secure when class isn’t in session.

“Any time you introduce devices into classrooms, you also introduce additional responsibility, administrative tasks and stress for teachers,” Sakai-Miller said. “These LocknCharge carts significantly reduce those burdens for our teachers.”

So far, so good
Enthusiasm for Project LEAN In is surpassing everyone’s expectations. After three “cohort” application cycles, the district has delivered 154 LocknCharge carts outfitted with Chromebooks. Demand for the carts from teachers has consistently outpaced supply, and the district’s school board and leadership – grasping the benefits of Project LEAN In – has made it a priority to fund as many teacher requests as possible.

For Sakai–Miller, who always strives to adopt a teacher’s outlook, the positive response is an early signal that technology integration at San Lorenzo USD is gaining critical mass.

“Our teachers are excited,” she said. “You can see that they’re energetic, revitalized. And that has a direct impact on all of our students.”

Continue Reading San Lorenzo’s Testimonial.

Compton Unified School District: Mobile Deployment Carts Keep Devices Safe in Urban District

California District Protects Technology Investment with Mobile Deployment Carts

Schools across the U.S. are making the important, yet costly, investment to bring more technology into classrooms. Since many jobs and careers now require applicants to have basic technology skills, students need to be well versed in using the latest version of technology.

Protecting Mobile Device Investments
In Compton, California, the situation is no different. As educators and administrators at Compton Unified School District (CUSD) seek to close the opportunity gap that many of their 23,000 students face, they need to protect the mobile tablets in which they invested. To ensure that their iPad devices and Chromebooks stay safe, CUSD has introduced 150 LocknCharge Carrier 40 Carts into classrooms to replace carts that weren’t keeping devices safe.

With the LocknCharge carts, teachers don’t have to worry about the safety of the devices as they use them to implement a blended learning model and create a 21st century learning environment. The devices have allowed the teachers to teach students digital citizenship and support the district’s robust STEM and computer science curricula.  

“We needed a cart that was secure and easy to use for teachers and students. LocknCharge gave us that flexibility,” said Michele Dawson, Senior Director, Instructional Technology at CUSD. “We have enjoyed the carts and haven’t had any issues with device security.”

Connecting and Advancing All Students
CUSD views equitable access to technology as a crucial factor in closing opportunity gaps for all students, including students from diverse backgrounds. LocknCharge carts support increased access to technology by ensuring that devices are protected, maintained and easy for all educators to deploy.  

“We’re working tirelessly toward achieving equity and closing the opportunity gap, which is central to our vision,” Dawson said. “We have a framework for innovation with project-based learning and a blended classroom-learning model that combines individual learning with adaptive computer programming and real world, authentic learning opportunities.”

Keeping Mobile Learning Mobile
The LocknCharge Carrier 40 Carts include a set of portable Mobile Device Baskets, which can be used to protect devices during distribution, quickly move small groupings of devices around the classroom and easily facilitate small- and large-group activities.

“The baskets are great for our blended learning model because we can easily divide up the devices in the carts,” Dawson said. “This extra mobility enables teachers to maximize their instructional time.” 

Through the use of LocknCharge’s mobile device Carts, CUSD is protecting its investment and ensuring that students can benefit from the mobile devices for years to come.

Continue Reading Compton’s Testimonial.