Two weeks in…

We have completed two weeks of our Transformational Technology initiative with 6th-12th grade students having their own iPads for use every day at school…and we’re still upright!

I have described this process as clearing a series of hurdles — as soon as one is cleared, there is another that shows up pretty quickly. So far, we have been able to clear almost every hurdle that has been placed in front of us.

Our hurdles have included issues that have required tweaks to our wireless networks. The good photonews here is that the Xirrus system we have in place has tremendous flexibility and that has enabled our network manager to make necessary adjustments to improve service in some areas at the High School. We still have some additional improvements to make, but our overall infrastructure plan is working well.

We struggled downloading three of the digital textbooks we are using — the common theme here was the fact that these books were behemoths — two of them over 2 GB! We learned a lot in this process and I believe as of last Friday, all students had their textbooks downloaded. We have several other digital books that were a breeze to implement immediately — these books tended to be broken down for download by chapter, making it much more manageable for students to download quickly.

Our final most common issue was a normal one for the beginning of the school year — helping students with logins and passwords. We assisted many students with this right away during the first days and most have it down now. It was a great opportunity to show students that simple things – like transposing letters in your user name – can prevent you from accessing your accounts!

However, here is the good news with these problems – they provide an opportunity for us to see students problem solving skills in action. One teacher shared with me that she couldn’t believe how adaptive students were to glitches they encountered. Students often collaborated on an issue and solved it together — often before adults had even noticed it. As predicted, kids are being resourceful and solving many of their own issues as they arise.

Students are interacting with digital material – downloading assignments, annotating them, and submitting them to their teachers digitally through Schoology. They are taking notes using Notability. They are using the web to research topics right in class — without having to travel to computers labs (when they were available!) Some teachers are experimenting with online quizzing and testing in order to retrieve assessment data quickly. We have many staff have made a sprint for the ‘redefinition’ level of the SAMR model right away. While I am sure these staff probably feel they take a few steps forward and a step back, they are making great progress. We are modeling for students that it is acceptable to take risk, to encounter challenges, and to continue to push forward. I have been so proud of how so many teachers have moved forward with such gusto.

We are making good progress both in the implementation of the devices and their academic use. Our students and teachers are transitioning well. That doesn’t mean we haven’t had problems or issues (as noted above) but we are moving forward on a daily basis.

As always, if you have questions about the Transformational Technology initiative, please contact Director of Administrative Services Matt Hillmann at matt.hillmann@northfieldschools.org or (507) 645-3458.