Feb 27, 2014

Pontiac 1:1 Reflection

On Friday, February 14th, a group of high school teachers, administrators, and coaches visited Pontiac High School to observe their 1:1 program.  Currently in its fourth year of implementation, their technology initiative has brought a wealth of learning opportunities to their students.  Here are some thoughts from our trip...

  1. A Core Set of Online Tools.  Pontiac uses two of the same major online resources that we do; Google Drive and Moodle (which we refer to as CMS).  These core tools were seen in practically every classroom that we visited, and set a comfortable standard for students to expect throughout their high school experience.

  2. OneNote and Tablets in Math.  The 1:1 initiative started with a grant through the math department in Pontiac.  Because of this grant, teachers were able to purchase and give their students access to class sets of Bamboo Wacom tablets (more information about these can be found here).  In conjunction with Microsoft OneNote, students wrote out their math notes digitally each day.  In addition to replacing their paper notebooks, OneNote allows their teacher to create note templates, place them in Google Drive or on their online course page, and deliver the template sheet to their students for use in their digital notebook.  This appeared to be an amazing way to deliver technology infused mathematics lessons.

  3. Startup Struggles.  Now four years in, I was interested to speak with teacher who were a part of the initial initiative rollout.  They readily admitted that the first year was a struggle for both the students and the teachers.  They were confident, however, that our transition would be much smoother due to the fact that students were coming in experienced with the hardware and online tools that are going to be used.  Also, they mentioned that teachers not having to learn those online tools at the same time as learning how to integrate the laptops would be very helpful.  It was refreshing to hear their confidence in our future implementation.

  4. Never Go Back.  Time and time again, the teachers reiterated that although there were struggles in the beginning, they could not imagine what their classrooms were like before going 1:1.  The learning environments that they are now able to provide far eclipse the difficulties that they encountered in the beginning, and still encounter at times now.

  5. No Two Teachers Are the Same.  Even in the math department, where use of the tablets and OneNote are practically institutionalized, we witnessed great variance in the way that teachers incorporated technology into their classrooms.  Some used Moodle (CMS) almost exclusively, others primarily Google Drive, and many combined their usage of both.  Some teachers still used their textbook as the primary resource in class, and the laptops as a secondary source of information.  Others kept textbooks as a supplemental resource and relied more heavily on the use of Open Educational Resources.  Many used their version of Vision, but others preferred to walk around the classroom to monitor student progress.  It was evident that this was not a "one size fits all" initiative, and yet each classroom seemed better off having the resources available.

  6. Mixed Classes Were Okay.  In the first year of their initiative only freshman had laptops.  They experienced the same mixed class situation that we will next year.  They used laptop carts that were available in their building to help supplement those classrooms that were mixed.  Additionally, I had a teacher comment to me that having a mixed class actually helped her focus the way in which she was using the technology.  She said that she approached that class with the attitude that there could not be any required online work outside of class due to its mixed nature.   This narrowed the scope and type of activities that she used the technology for, and led to much less work on her part.


 

I left the experience with a renewed sense of confidence in the direction of our 1:1 initiative.  Like Pontiac, we are a district that is brimming with professional, hardworking individuals who are always striving to provide the best learning environments possible for our students.  We all know that there will be struggles next year, that point is not disputed.  But in an educational landscape where initiatives come and go, and student/teacher change often does not live up to the promise, it was refreshing to see that change in person in Pontiac.  I have seen this amazing shift start to happen in our junior high buildings, and I have no doubt that it snowball throughout our district in time.

~Sean Mullins

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