As the weather warms and the sun shines more, sidewalks surrounding Thomas Jefferson Middle School begin to bustle with active children and families. Recently, stopped in my car at the Roosevelt and Glendale intersection, I watched a young boy ride a bicycle, his mother walking behind. He pedaled faster and lengthened the distance between them. The mild breeze carried her voice in through my open windows.
“Wait for me,” she called.
A bit farther down the block, she reminded, “Don’t go too far ahead.”
She guided her child while maintaining her gait, a fast-paced walk, keeping the boy within earshot – enough of a tether.
The TJMS 1:1 Pilot creates a similar connection between teachers and students, offering independence to explore and learn in a more independent, individualized way. Students take off the training wheels and ride forward on their own. (But not too far, of course!) Everything that TJMS students and staff learn during the trial period will create space for more appealing learning opportunities.
Hopefully my analogy conveys the philosophy behind our endeavor – but some of you simply want the stats.
What does our 1:1 initiative look like? Each of our 592 students carry a dedicated device throughout the school day to use during academic periods. Our sixth and seventh grade students use Chromebooks; our eighth grade students utilize laptops. Students have an assigned charging cart, where they pick-up the device in the morning and return it in the afternoon. The student assumes the responsibility of storing the device in the cart and ensuring the device is plugged in and charging. In addition, if a student needs to report damage or submit a repair request, our process helps the student maintain ownership of the particular device.
How does 1:1 impact student learning? First, remember the library you used to visit in high school or college and the books you used to read through? Well, now that library travels with a student in his or her backpack. Pretty cool.
Further, teachers can now tap this virtual library at any time, as well, and engage students using the functionality of digital documents and materials: the ability to share and collaborate, access graphics and animations, highlight and annotate texts, all in real-time. Yes, you can do a lot of these same activities on paper, but the technology facilitates a seamless learning experience. Incorporating feedback and interactions into a dynamic document helps the students become true stakeholders, stakeholders ready to claim their education.
Next year, a device will travel home with each student, and students will need guidance to ensure they take advantage of the many compelling learning opportunities. Both parents and teachers can walk behind children riding their bikes, issuing redirection and encouragement when needed.