By Mike Ramm
Principal, East Rockford Middle School
Today’s reality is that students in K-12 education are digital natives. As a point of reference, the iPod was released 17 years ago in 2001. Technology is part of our students’ language and in many ways, it is how they learn and communicate. Therefore, our approach to education must capitalize on the benefits of instructional technology.
In May of 2014, the Rockford community supported RPS by passing a bond proposal, part of which allocated money towards instructional technology. Presently, we are in our second of a three-year One to One technology implementation plan. One to One means that every student has a technology device.
As part of a three-year rollout, in 2016/17 all kindergarten through 1st grade students were issued an iPad. That same year, all 3rd through 5th grade students were supplied with a laptop. During this school year, each middle school student received a laptop. Presently, grades 9-12 have laptops for about one-third of their students, and in 2018/19 they will participate in a bring your own device (BYOD) implementation. In other words, by the end of next school year, every RPS student will have his/her own computer to support learning.
This is an exciting evolution and over the course of these two years, the integration of One to One technology has already impacted learning in the following ways:
- Opportunities for students to collaborate are increased. One common example is the use of shared platforms where multiple students have access and are working on the same product at the same time. Consider a scenario where four students are authoring a project proposal and each is able to see the work of the others in real time. Interestingly, since implementation, classroom arrangements have also shifted from students seated in rows to students seated in small groups and facing each other.
- Instruction and content can more easily be tailored to an individual student’s ability. As an example, many applications used for student skill development and assessment identify ability levels by the choice of right and wrong answers. Rigor and instruction are automatically adjusted to fit the individual needs of the student. In this way, a classroom of 30 students can theoretically be working at 30 different levels of curriculum.
- In the same way, students and teachers often benefit from using technology to receive instant feedback. As an example, a teacher can quickly check for student understanding by asking students to take an online assessment. As soon as the students submit, results are collected and reported to both student and teacher. This allows students to immediately understand their strengths and weaknesses, and teachers to make instructional moves to target critical areas.
- Finally, RPS teachers use Schoology’s consistent format for each course as a classroom’s website. Schoology allows teachers to post online assignments and classroom resources, provides an avenue to turn in assignments electronically, and supports collaboration and communication among students and teacher.
Thanks to the support of the Rockford community, and commitment to best practices by the teaching and support staff, the educational experience of each of our nearly 8,000 students is increased. By taking advantage of this “new language”, Rockford students are better prepared for the future.