These days, before many children know how to talk, they know how to swipe open an iPad.
Technology is rapidly altering nearly every aspect of our lives, from the way we communicate and shop, to the way we work and play. And there's no exception when it comes to how we learn. The 1:1 Initiative was launched in response to the growing imperative for the integration of technology into Hamilton County classrooms. Through a partnership between Hamilton County Department of Education (HCDE), Public Education Foundation (PEF), and the Benwood Foundation, six schools from two different feeder patterns were chosen to help model what the future of learning could look like -- giving every student and teacher access to a digital device both during and outside of school. The participating schools are Calvin Donaldson Elementary, East Lake Academy, Howard High, Red Bank Elementary, Red Bank Middle, and Red Bank High.
However, the real focus of the Initiative has not been on the device, but what the device makes possible.
The purpose is to create a technology-infused learning environment where learning isn’t limited to a classroom or teacher. Students' use of devices isn't limited to a computer lab or even to the school day.
Learning can happen anytime, anywhere.
The initiative has sparked a new wave of learning that requires and encourages critical thinking and facilitation over memorization and regurgitation. Classrooms are now becoming a place for avid discussion, active debate, and comprehensive learning. This innovative concept is called PBL (problem/project-based learning).
"PBL asks students to explore a meaningful question, solve an engaging real-world problem, or develop a solution using multiple areas of study,” says Director of Innovation for Hamilton County Department of Education, Keri Randolph.
It takes the “old school” ways of education and transforms them for the 21st century.
Teaching methods are shifting from lecturing facts to facilitating device-enabled learning. It is cultivating an engaged learning environment with teachers and students becoming eager learners once again. In fact, 76% of students reported their ability to learn independently was better or much better since receiving their devices. Teachers then give students opportunities and prompts to apply that knowledge in real-world applications.
In life, we rarely work in silos and frequently use a blend of skills and processes gained from many different disciplines. PBL curriculum gives students guidelines and enables them to come to a collaborative solution. Current industry professionals are also brought into the classroom to share with students and make their learning more relevant.
Ashley Cox, a teacher at Howard School of Academics and Technology, has seen an increase in digital literacy, problem solving, and critical thinking skills in the students that have been in the 1:1 program for the past two years. She says that this new way of learning has given students more freedom in the classroom and are now in a position to teach the teacher.
It has created a two-way learning environment that empowers students. Ashley says, “If you give them freedom, they can do things that are unimaginable.” We’re at a point in history where we need to prepare our students for a world that is going to be drastically different than the one that we graduated into. A child’s future depends less on if they can test well and more about how do they think.
The ability to answer the classic student question “Why do I need to know this?” Has been a major success for the initiative. The student devices bring today’s world up close and allows students to understand how math, science, and history relate to modern life. Students are also learning new skills like email communication, online time management, and digital literacy.
Teachers are now applying for technology and innovation grants to amplify opportunities for their students. It is connecting parents to the digital age with testimonies of getting WiFi access at home that wasn’t previously needed. The initiative is slimming down the digital divide and creating limitless opportunities even beyond the student. One mother enrolled in night classes because she now has access to her child’s iPad after she goes to bed.
This is a huge shift for educators so the 1:1 Initiative gives them the necessary support and resources during this time of transition. It was implemented with a grassroots-approach and the educators were able to decide how to best use the new technology and infuse it into their curriculum. Teachers are collaborating and learning from one another by sharing best practices, discoveries, and lessons learned.
One teacher says:
“What helped me the most personally was what the other teachers brought to the table...sharing apps, sharing programs, showing how this works is what helped everybody. An all the teachers are invested into making the initiative work..”
Our hope for the 1:1 Initiative is that it’s another instrument in the education tool box. Through its success and our lessons learned, confidence is growing that 1:1 will expand into all Hamilton County schools.
This initiative is giving young minds boundless access to a world of information transforming education as we know it.