Last year, we began a program that can best be described as “classroom modernization” across the district. Our Board of Education recognized the importance and education need for the modernization and made a commitment through its budget to support the purchase of technology to support the professionals in our classrooms.
The first decision we made was to ensure all teaching staff had access to a current, mobile device. While often the focus is on ensuring all students have access to current devices (a continuing effort in our district) we realized that if we wanted classes to be engaging with digital tools, teachers needed to have access and feel comfortable with them as well.
The next decision was to give teachers a choice in their devices. Just as learning is personalized for students, we know that teaching is different and personalized for each teacher. In previous practice, when (if) we gave out the technology, we would have given everyone the same technology and lockdown the device — with device management being the priority. Instead, we gave teachers choices that included iPads, MacBook Pros, PC Laptops and PC Tablets.
Another key component of this modernization push has been to install wireless projectors in all of our classrooms from Grades 4 to 12 (and deploying existing projectors to primary classrooms) so teachers could then easily display their screens.
Last and most important, we created ongoing training opportunities and support for teachers with their devices through centrally run training, and access to innovation grants — teacher teams can now work together in an area of focus and often with digital technology.
Of course, the projects are more complex than one can cover in a single post, but the general premise was simple — we want all teachers to have a common set of tools across schools and grades to effectively work with students.
And after the first year, this is what we heard . . .
83% of teachers said, “it had a positive impact” on their teaching and more than 85% found the impact on student learning to be “somewhat” or “very positive”. They highlighted a variety of positive impacts on their classrooms; their ability to use current content and resources; the opportunity to be innovative and to demonstrate learning in multiple ways and to be able to communicate this to parents. Some comments from teachers about key benefits included:
“It has allowed me to connect with colleagues and parents more efficiently. It has allowed me to show videos and images to the classes I teach and has given me a great tool to plan lessons.”
“It’s great having my own laptop that I can use at a moment’s notice. I also really appreciate being given the choice of platforms.”
“I compose lesson plans, assessment and correspondence on the device. It is the hub of my teaching practice.”
“I move around the school a lot – so having a device that can come with me has made my job significantly more fluid.”
“My courses have gone completely paperless and I am able to incorporate virtual learning on many levels.”
“I’ve been able to make using technology seamless.”
Of course, there have also been good lessons for areas of improvement and for better support throughout the process. The exponential growth in technology has strained some of our wireless networks and choked our bandwidth — both areas we are currently working on to address. We also realize each teacher has a different learning requirement, comfort level and expertise with technology, and for personalizing their teaching.
A modernization project is never quite complete. But, in giving our teachers the tools they need to teach, it has made a huge difference for our students in their quest for relevant, current and connected learning opportunities.