At the Dec. 7 Board of Education meeting, the district’s Chief Technology Officer Dr. Sal DeAngelo, provided the Board with his department’s annual technology update which featured a districtwide initiative that looks to expand 1:1 student access to Chromebooks beyond fifth grade, providing a device to every student in grades 3-12.
All Bethlehem students in grades 3-5 currently have Chromebooks that are used in elementary classrooms. Chromebooks are designed to be used primarily while connected to the Internet, with most applications and documents being stored in the cloud.
The plan, which DeAngelo calls the “Power of One,” is intended to advance personalized learning and empower students and teachers in the district. It is being spearheaded by the Technology Department and is supported by the K-12 Computer Science Cabinet, which includes Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Dave Hurst and K-5 Administrator for Instructional Technology Laurel Jones.
A tentative timeline described by Dr. DeAngelo would allow for expansion of Chromebooks into the middle school and high school in the 2017-18 school year.
“Before we begin on this journey, it is important to ensure there is a proper foundation in place to support our efforts,” Dr. DeAngelo told the board. “We must also gather research and data to support our decisions and test and pilot our assumptions.
“We have begun to put some of those pieces in place, with existing research, visits to other districts that have implemented similar plans, and in conversations with administrators, faculty and students,” he said. “The Bright Bytes Clarity survey we are conducting will also provide us with an important baseline from which to build.”
DeAngelo said that over the last two and half years, the district has introduced 1:1 Chromebooks in all elementary classrooms in grades 3-5. Teachers in those classrooms can use the devices as much, or as little, as they wish, he said.
He also reported that access to Chromebooks at both the middle school and high school has also been expanded significantly over the last two years, with 23 carts available at the middle school that each have enough Chromebooks to outfit an entire classroom. The high school currently has 21 carts, along with Chromebooks that are used by students enrolled in the school’s Syracuse University Public Affairs (SUPA) class and traditional laptops used by students in Lab School.
In his presentation, DeAngelo said the district is surveying students, teachers and parents to identify where technology gaps might exist and where areas of strength are.
“One of the most important aspects of our survey is asking teachers for a self-assessment of their own technology skills so that we can design and deliver targeted professional development that will help them incorporate the Chromebooks into their classrooms,” said DeAngelo.
The tentative plan presented to the Board of Education included three grade-specific models for providing Chromebooks to students in grades 3-12:
- Grades 3-5 – Classroom Model: Chromebooks would be available in the classroom only.
- Grades 6-8 – In-School Model: Students would pick up the device in the morning and return it at the end of the day.
- Grades 9-12 – Take-Home Model: Students in all grades would be able to bring device between home to school.
DeAngelo said he would like to see the work the district has done at the elementary level in terms of capacity building and exposing teachers to the opportunities created by personalized learning to be expanded so that the same opportunities follow these students along into middle school and high school.
In speaking to the board, DeAngelo said there would also be opportunities to integrate more personalized technology at the K-2 level, but several devices under consideration are currently being tested.
“We see four- and five-year olds who come to school already having been exposed to technology,” said DeAngelo. “Expanding personalized learning allow us to engage this generation of students and help us meet the district’s goal of providing an innovative and cohesive educational program.”
DeAngelo said a reallocation of funds within the Technology Department’s existing budget would allow for the “Power of One” Chromebook expansion without an additional budget impact if it was to move forward in 2017-18.
The January 4, 2017 Board of Education meeting is expected to include a presentation on “Capacity Building in 1:1 Personal Learning” currently underway at the district’s five elementary schools.