A Note from John Bute, District 104 Superintendent

John ButeMost of today’s schools have some form of computing technology available to teachers and students, such as computer labs (classrooms with computer workstations) or mobile computer stations (typically carts filled with laptop computers that can be wheeled around a school and shared by teachers and students). Many educators and reformers view one-to-one computing environments as the next logical step for schools. A one-to-one program environment refers to one computer for every student.

In schools without a one-to-one computing program, teachers may need to schedule computing time in advance, depending on a school’s computing options and computer supply, scheduling conflicts can arise. Teachers may also need to postpone or modify certain lessons, and valuable instructional time can be eroded because students may need to be moved to a computer lab, it may take extra time to get shared computers configured properly, or the computers may not have the required software, for example.

One-to-one technology has been an integral part of teaching and learning in Central School District #104 for several years. In 2009, the school board authorized the use of laptop computers for the implementation of a one-to-one. Administrators and staff had recognized the need to add the technology component in order to lay the groundwork for the demands of high school and post-secondary education.

Using one-to-one technology prepares students for life and work beyond school. Digital technology is already driving how people work and live. Some students may have to “power down” if they attend a school without available technology. Many families have computers, tablets, smart phones, and other devices that allow students to learn, play games, and interact with friends across the world. There are jobs today requiring technology skills that did not exist ten, five, or even two years ago. Who would have guessed that nearly every Fortune 500 company and nonprofit organization would have departments for managing social networking on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram? Today’s students who are being told to get offline and get to work may be tomorrow’s workers getting online to do their jobs.

Access to technology addresses a key goal of equity in education. Outside of school there is a widening digital divide of those who have access to knowledge, data, and skills and those who do not. Access to digital tools helps to provide all students with resources for success both in and after school.

Greater access to digital resources and information results in more choices, more active student engagement, and stronger ownership of student learning. Rather than being students along for the ride, learners can help drive their own education. This is evident in theory and practices in classrooms at Joseph Arthur MS. Teachers use our one-to-one devices (Chromebooks) to push and pull assignments to and from students. Two years ago the District purchased a digital math textbook. Rather than shell out $100 each for 300 hard copy textbooks, we purchased subscriptions to access the information electronically. Teachers and students use one-to-one devices, along with Promethean Boards, to demonstrate math concepts and skills. In a recent Social Studies lesson, students were able to access more current reference materials and primary sources not available from a five-year-old History textbook.

According to Joseph Arthur MS Principal, Mr. Jered Weh, “Using one-to-one technology better reaches today’s learners in a style they are most comfortable with, digital. Our students in sixth through eighth grade are able to take these devices home and access the Internet (all devices are fully filtered to be compliant with the law) and classroom resources.”

Our technology has been shown to be a powerful tool for differentiating and personalizing learning. Students needing more support for basic skills can access on-line help or teacher help at any time. Likewise, students needing greater challenges can have their needs addressed. One-to-one access enhances the personalization of learning. More importantly, it has resulted in greater student engagement and willingness for students to persevere in difficult subject areas.

It may not be the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change. Central School District #104 strives to be responsive to the ever changing landscape of 21st century learners.