TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. – At the start of the school year, approximately 250 eighth grade students attending North Tahoe School and Alder Creek Middle School were issued Chromebooks as part of Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District’s new one-to-one technology prototype program. Designed to get technology into the hands of students and integrate it into how they learn, the prototype program has so far proven this style of learning is the way of the future.
“The way students are learning, and the way the world works has changed because of technology. The one-to-one prototype program was developed in an effort to give our students the ability to incorporate technology into the way they do research, analyze information, and collaborate with their teachers and other students,” said Rebecca Maas, teacher technology specialist at TTUSD.
Funded in equal parts by the district and a matching $36,000 grant from the Excellence in Education Foundation, the Chromebook prototype program has not only put technology into the hands of students, it has provided teachers with the ability to enhance curriculum with interactive learning activities that foster collaboration, creativity and independent thinking.
Although the biggest focus for its inaugural year has been to develop students’ research skills and writing, and teach them how to use the Internet safely, the program is also opening the door to conversations with students about “digital citizenship” and how to be a good citizen in the global world.
“Partnering with the school district on the one-to-one prototype program has been a huge step forward with regard to supporting opportunities that will help our students be at the forefront of education,” said Laura Brown, executive director of the Excellence in Education Foundation. “The district is working diligently to build a comprehensive plan incorporating technology into the classroom and instruction, and our board is thrilled to support this effort and the opportunity for the students in our district to learn the skills they need in today’s technologically advanced world.”
A recent Harris Interactive survey of public school teachers indicated that more than 95 percent of educators agree technology increases student engagement in learning and enables personalized learning. Despite challenges districts around the country have encountered with similar programs including lack of funding, infrastructure, and training for teachers who are incorporating technology into their lesson planning, TTUSD’s program is promising.
Teachers and students are using the Google Apps for Education suite, giving every student their own account so they can collaborate with other students only within the district, as well as the ability to work offline on projects, making it unnecessary to have an Internet connection at home.
“In addition to having resources to assist at the district level with the addition of our new technology department, teachers are collaborating with other teachers both at their school site and across the district in an effort to develop best practices and new, innovative ways to present lessons,” said Maas. “We’ve heard loud and clear from both teachers and students that we can’t ‘go back’ to the old way of learning.”
Since the start of the school year, the program has been rolling out gradually. Phase one included introduction of the Chromebooks in language arts and social studies classes, as well as how to handle and care for them. Students learned the basics with regard to how the computers would be used in the classroom.
In October and November, the Chromebooks began traveling with students throughout the school day to all core classes (math, science, language arts and social studies), and logistics such as how students were to turn in digital projects was clarified.
Phase two just recently began, which includes the ability of students to take the Chromebooks home in order to work on projects outside of school hours. Workshops with parents are starting to take place in this phase of the program, offering further information about responsibility for and care of the computers, where information can be found about the assignments the students are tasked with, and opening conversations about Internet safety and digital citizenship.
Maas says the district’s next steps include looking at ways to introduce the program to other grade levels and support multi-grade level classes. The district’s long-term goals include expanding the program over the next few years to all middle and high school students. In the meantime, lessons are being learned with regard to the logistics needed to successfully launch and maintain the program as it grows to scale.
Jessica VanPernis Weaver is an Excellence in Education board member.