By: Claudette Riley
Original Post from Springfield News-Leader
Even rattling off the number gives Nichole Lemmon pause.
"We have never handed out 20,000 devices in 11 days, and we are doing 8,300 on the first day," she said. Lemmon, director of blended learning for Springfield Public Schools, said the distribution of computers, the largest of its kind in the history of the district, also signals the final step in a three-year plan to provide a Google Chromebook for every student in grades 3-12.
"We are finally in a place where all classrooms have the same technology," she said. "We are finally equal. I look at it as we are getting started." Superintendent John Jungmann, with the backing of the school board, launched a three-year technology effort in 2015 called Ignite. He said the effort aimed to put "modern tools and resources" in the hands of teachers and students. "The Ignite program has, as a foundational goal, the leveling of the playing field for all of our learners," he said.
In addition to the laptops, classroom teachers in kindergarten through second grade will have access to sets of iPads. A total of 3,000 will be available. The approved budget for the 2017-18 year includes lease payments for the technology rolled out during Ignite, including $437,424 for the first year, $658,919 for last year and $771,540 for this year.
The technology was implemented in a staggered way, and the leases must be reviewed every three years. At that point, the district will decide if it wants to renew and extend the lease or go in a different direction.
"We believe right now we do have the right tools in the classroom," he said. "We get good feedback from our students and teachers in the classroom. One area where we get feedback that we need more is K-2." He said expanding access will be considered this year.
Lemmon said the district is trying one-to-one technology, in the form of the touchscreen Google Chromebooks, for students in kindergarten through second grade at Fremont and Sherwood elementary schools. But, in early grades at other schools, classrooms have to check out sets of iPads.
"Our K-2 teachers, in our survey last year, said they wanted to be one-to-one too," she said.
The district has also beefed up its IT help, hired a team of blended learning specialists and provides mobile hot spots for students without internet access at home.
Jungmann said the district is in the process of revising its curriculum to take advantage of online tools and providing students with access to more adaptive software. "The goal is not modern tools, it's better learning," he said. "And better learning happens when students get individual feedback in a much more efficient manner about where you are."
Members of the school board have repeatedly asked how the district will measure the impact of the new technology and learning strategies. Jungmann said the district uses BrightBytes, which analyzes students' access, skills and development. Other, more traditional measures, are also used.
"That learning is measured by a number of different things — grades, GPA, as well as standardized test scores, which we want to move and we always say are a significant part of our metrics, but they are insufficient in representing the entire child," he said. The older devices, which were purchased before the Ignite initiative, have been moved around to provide access where needed.
"We have quit buying them so as they roll out, they've been going to surplus," he said. "We've been using them to Band-Aid the other spots and we've pushed them into K-2 environments, where they want more."