Although we at Kajeet are sad to see the summer end, we’re happy to have teachers and students returning to the classroom for another fantastic year of learning. As we dive into the 2015-2016 school year, our goal is to continue helping districts bridge the digital divide and lessen the achievement gap by making sure all students get Internet access at home.
We were curious to hear from superintendents, chief technology officers, IT directors, and other ed tech leaders to learn about their top tech goals for this school year, so we asked them! From 1-to-1 initiatives to beefing up BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) programs, one thing is clear: Improving the technology experience in and outside of the classroom is a top priority.
1.Piloting, expanding or completing the district’s 1-to-1 initiative.
It’s almost impossible to read about EdTech without some mention of a district planning, launching, or finishing a 1-to-1 rollout. And that’s a great thing! We all know that moving education from teacher-centric to learner-driven is the way to go, and having mobile devices in each student’s hand ensures that that’s a reality. The One-To-One Institute is a great resource for learning how to transform education through technology, and K-12 Blueprint—sponsored by Intel Corp.—has case studies, toolkits, and blogs to help districts implement 1-to-1 and BYOD initiatives. In the One-to-One toolkit, you’ll find everything from lessons of districts that have had 1-to-1 programs for 10 years to tips for getting your community on board with your EdTech plan.
2. Incorporating more technology in the classroom/curriculum.
Everyone from parents to superintendents is asking for more innovative lessons that integrate technology and teach 21st-century skills to prepare students for success. We want our children to be globally aware, learn about the environment, and develop the information- and media-literacy skills they need to stay safe online. They also need to be innovative, collaborative, and creative problem solvers. Future Ready is a new effort to help school districts develop action plans to increase their digital learning offerings to deliver instructional best practices and personalized learning experiences. And if your teachers need inspiration, here are ideas for 36 weeks of innovation for your classroom. Anyone want to participate in a Mystery Hangout or create a weekly class podcast?
3. Improving Wi-Fi access and wireless connectivity.
One in three students do not have Internet access at home. That’s why districts are turning to companies like Kajeet to provide cost-effective, filtered broadband connectivity via Kajeet SmartSpots. The Affton School District in Missouri knew its 1-to-1 would not be equitable until every student—including the 40 percent on free/reduced lunch—could enjoy 24/7 learning. To determine which students need home Internet access, you’ll need to collect information by asking families to complete a survey. Do not post the survey online; you’ll get more accurate results if parents fill it out by hand. Many districts hand out surveys at Back to School Nights or Parent-Teacher Conferences. Others send them home with weekly take-home folders. Kajeet has a sample survey for you to download.
4. Purchasing more devices or upgrading hardware.
According to IDC, K-12 and Higher Education spent $7 billion last year on desktops and laptops, and a great deal of those laptops were Chromebooks, which the New York Times says are giving Apple a run for its money. The important thing is to gather input from as many leaders as possible and come up with a plan to transform learning, and then figure out how devices will help you get there.
Remember: You have to start with the learning outcomes; in other words, what do you want your students to learn and be able to do when they graduate? Once you’ve reached a consensus, only then can you figure out what it will take to get there, including infrastructure upgrades, additional technology staff, teacher training, and more.
5. Making BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) a success.
Georgia’s Forsyth County Schools is a go-to district in terms of making BYOD work. And for districts looking to stretch their dollars so more students have devices in school, BYOD makes a lot of sense—as long as you have a plan for handling the equity issue. In addition to saving money from not purchasing so many devices, a lot of districts are excited with BYOD because it lets students use the device they are most comfortable with—a device that a good chunk of them may already own and use at home.
In a BYOD environment, the tech staff will not have to spend time, money, or resources repairing or maintaining devices, either. In the BYOD Planning and Implementation Framework toolkit, created by Oak Hills Local School District in Cincinnati, Ohio, you’ll see how the district engaged the community to help create a three-year EdTech plan, see how they configured their network, and get step-by-step instructions for designing a BYOD portal.
So, as you go about planning, maintaining, or improving your 1-to-1 or BYOD initiatives this year, we hope you’ll remember that the best learning is the kind that never stops: whether it’s in class, in the cafeteria, on the playground, at the ball field, or at a birthday party on a Sunday afternoon. As district administrators, you have the power to make sure learning can always happen.