Building Schools around Technology

A tech coordinator’s perspective on disruption, re-design, and technology’s role in education.

GUEST COLUMN | by Paul Hieronymus

CREDIT Lakewood City Schools.jpgThe modern classroom has undergone dramatic changes over the past few years. Technology has disrupted our notions of how we design our schools and best deliver our curriculum to our students. As the Coordinator of Technology and Communication at the Lakewood City Schools in Ohio, I experienced my school district respond to these changes firsthand.

In 2014, we adopted a 10-year plan that would see all of our schools either rebuilt or renovated to better educate and prepare our students. One of the major focuses of this $100 million remodel was the role that technology would play in our classrooms.

One of the major focuses of this $100 million remodel was the role that technology would play in our classrooms.

Instead of having computer labs where students would go to use technology, we wanted to bring devices directly into our classrooms. Our aim was to create a learning environment where the students could be collaborative while preparing for an increased emphasis on online testing. The remodeling included tearing down three of our seven elementary schools placing them in transitional buildings. Space was an issue in the locations making computer labs a challenge. To effortlessly move the devices around the temporary classrooms and schools, we introduced LocknCharge carts, which then followed us to the new buildings once they opened. We were so pleased with this model that we dismantled our old computer labs in our existing buildings and converted them to mobile labs using the carts.

The carts allowed our educators to move the devices into the temporary buildings and between classrooms during the construction process. Now that we are settled into our new buildings, the carts allow our educators to share devices between classrooms.

We introduced iPads in a 1:3 ratio for grades K-2 and then shifted the students to Chromebooks for grades 2-5 at the same ratio. Second grade is designed to be a buffer year for the students to transition from a tactical learning environment with the iPads to a keyboard-learning environment with the Chromebooks.

With the 1:3 ratio, students are more likely to collaborate as they share the devices, which is why we are not currently trying to establish a 1:1 ratio in our elementary schools. We want to avoid the devices becoming a worksheet on a screen where the students are doing the same things as before, but just on a screen. By combining the use of devices and doing assignments by hand with paper, our goal is to create a learning environment that closely resembles the real-world.

After the two years of construction, we were able to bring the technology into our new, modern classrooms with great success. Our staff and students have become comfortable with the use of the devices and the administration has seen interest in them over the course of the project from the staff, students and their parents.

Our school district consists of approximately 5,200 students from 32 countries with five percent of those students being refugees and eight percent being English language learners. The mobile devices have provided an extra benefit to those students as they can utilize Rosetta Stone and translate extension applications to have materials translated for them as well as translate questions and answers between them and the educators.

Our parents understand the relevance of technology in today’s world so we have seen great responses from them. The students are immersed in this world of technology already so it is important that we have adapted to meet this need. Younger students know that their exposure to technology is only going to increase because we shift to a 1:1 ratio in middle school and high school.

Our school district was presented with a rare opportunity to embrace emerging technology while revamping our classrooms. With mobile devices, we have been able to create mobile device-friendly learning environments that help us cater our instruction to our students’ needs and better prepare them for what’s ahead.

Paul Hieronymus is Coordinator of Technology and Communication at Lakewood City Schools. Contact him through email.

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