Westerville News & Public Opinion

District plans for tech-boosted classrooms

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Westerville City School District administrators are encouraging constituents to delete from their minds traditional visions of classrooms and input a vision geared toward technology-based, 21st-century learning.

"Right now, when you open a typical classroom, what do you expect to see? Chalkboard, desks, books, pencil sharpeners," Superintendent John Kellogg said. "Why shouldn't our expectations be that when we open up a classroom, we see interactive whiteboards, student devices that they can log onto, teacher device?"

The district's administration presented its plan to the Westerville Board of Education at a work session last week to have one electronic device, such as a laptop or tablet, for every two students by the end of the 2016-2017 school year.

The district needs to adopt technology-supported curricula and policies to help prepare students for college and the work force, where they will be expected to use technology proficiently, Kellogg said.

"We talk about one-to-one" device-to-student ratios, Kellogg said. "Colleges talk about three devices to one student ratios."

The district began in October creating the 21st Century Learning and Teaching Roadmap, looking at where the district is now in terms of instruction, where the district would like to be, how it will reach its goals and how success in reaching its goals will be measured.

The focus of the district committee creating the roadmap became 21st century learning and integrating technology as a tool to learning.

They developed a the 2:1 device-to-student ratio as a goal and set steps that will begin next school year to get there, said district Curriculum and Instruction Services Director Jennifer Knapp.

In the coming months, the district would work to create the technology infrastructure needed to support a high quantity of wireless devices in schools and to create a committee to evaluate what types of devices and software should be used, Kellogg said.

At the start of the next school year, the district would want to have 15 or 20 "Power User" teachers at the beginning of the next school year, and expanding those users to about 90 teachers at the end of the year, Knapp said. About 1,000 student devices also would be available by the end of next year.

More devices would be added in school years 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 to total 7,000 student devices.

The goal for the classroom would be to have a system in which all devices could interact: The teacher could have a display projected or on a SmartBoard for students, and the teacher would be able to see the work the students were doing on their devices, Knapp said.

The key, Kellogg said, is developing curriculum and teaching practices so the devices are not an "add on" but an integrated learning tool.

"We're looking at an instructional change," Kellogg said.

The program would be paid for through the district's capital-improvement fund, the reallocation of some general fund dollars and through $1 million pledged previously by the board for technology investment, Knapp said.

The cost of implementation would fit within the scope of the district's balanced five-year forecast, Kellogg said.

Throughout the process, Kellogg said, the district will continue to work and communicate with teachers, students and families to ensure that its approach to integrating technology is working.

"This plan just sets the stage for that and provides opportunities for ongoing dialogue with our teachers, and you spread that to students and our families," Kellogg said. "We want to continue that process. The plan doesn't say, 'Go forward and do.' The plan says, 'Go forward and engage.'

"This is not a drop-down from above."

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