The Chromebooks are in the classrooms. The wireless upgrades have been completed with access points all over the school district buildings. The servers and desktops have been virtualized. Teachers are utilizing the cloud for instruction.
That was the question posed at a Tuesday CoSN conference session and answered by speakers from CDW•G and Aldine (Texas) Independent School District. The answer? Professional development and an overhaul of learning spaces — to start.
Mike Patterson, an education strategist with CDW•G, made the case for creating collaborative learning spaces, moving away from the old “cells and bells” design familiar in schools and prisons.
“That environment prepares students for 1950s jobs,” he says. He asked the audience to imagine their classrooms and how the spaces “speak” to students and support learning outcomes.
“We need to move from teacher-centered to student-centered spaces,” Patterson says. To do that, he suggested looking at a Starbucks model because it’s warm, inviting, collaborative and conducive to learning.
A 2015 study in the journal Building and the Environment found that classroom design could be attributed to a 25 percent impact, positive or negative, on a student’s progress over the course of an academic year, Patterson says.
At Aldine Independent School District in Houston, collaborative learning spaces were one of many visions set forth for the future. The district also made plans for wireless connectivity in all its schools by this fall, 24/7 access as well as a set of 10-12 mobile devices per classroom, supplemented by bring-your-own-technology devices. Aldine decided against a one-to-one device program, which has gained popularity with districts in recent years.
“What is more attractive to us is whether it offers more personalized learning for our students,” says Akilah Willery, the district’s executive director of instructional technology integration. “Does it pose any instructional value?”
After the district set its technology implementation plan in motion, it began the real work of training its educators, starting with the principals. Aldine designed two professional development programs — Innovate Academy and Level Up — as ongoing training tools.
Innovate Academy focuses solely on providing professional development for principals in the district, something that is sorely needed, Willery says. “They have never been the focus of coaching, and that was the most valuable piece of this,” she says.
In the four Innovate Academy sessions, principals learn and discuss strategic design and vision, digital tools for collaboration, learning environment redesign and future-ready skills.
Level Up is a microbadging program. Teachers don’t get their devices until they complete the first level, Willery says, which is a great incentive for going through the training. The self-paced professional development program is face-to-face, online and blended. According to Willery, 800-plus teachers have completed the program so far.
“More than 4,500 Chromebooks and more than 380 carts have already been ordered for district-sponsored educators,” she says.
EdTech is covering CoSN 2017, including articles on spotlight sessions, keynotes and the pulse on social media. Keep up to date on all of our coverage by visiting our CoSN 2017 conference page.