'It's Trending Up': OPRF Sees Jump in Classroom Technology Use Under 1:1 Initiative

By: Steve Schering, Contact Reporter
Original Post from Chicago Tribune

In the second full year of its 1:1 student technology initiative, Oak Park and River Forest High School says more than half of its teachers are now using devices in the classroom.

Under the 1:1 initiative, all OPRF students are provided with a school-owned Chromebook laptop to use in the classroom and to take home. The full 1:1 program began during the 2016-17 school year, though OPRF had launched smaller pilot rollouts in prior years.

During the Jan. 16 school board meeting, administrators revealed results of a Brightbytes survey, which used data collected in the fall of 2017. According to administrators, 841 out of 3,300 students and 216 of 268 OPRF teachers responded to the survey, with 77 percent of teachers reporting they feel confident in managing a classroom where students are using more technology.

"That is pretty significant, since we were only in our second year of the 1:1," instructional technology coordinator Earliana McLaurin said. "The top four responses of what teachers are doing are all things we want, productivity skills and completing assignments, viewing videos, doing research and typing."

McLaurin also said more than half of OPRF teachers are now using technology in the classroom on a daily basis.

"Not only are they using it, but they're using it more frequently," McLaurin said. "It's trending up."

With the numbers showing more teachers using the Chromebooks in the classrooms, administrators said they will now focus more on how that technology is used and how it can improve the skills students will need when they graduate.

"Now that we have more teachers utilizing technology in the classroom, we can focus on promoting technology that moves beyond those productivity tasks and to those 21st century skills we want our students to leave OPRF with," McLaurin said.

Chief information officer Mike Carioscio said administrators will also use Brightbytes data to set new goals and targets they hope to achieve in the coming years.

"We have been content, until this point, since we've been focused on the delivery of the 1:1," Carioscio said. "The real goal is for us to continue to improve. The main impact to the students is for teachers to really use that technology. If you're not using it on a regular basis, you're not having that kind of transformation."

Though technology use is increasing at OPRF, administrators said how and when that technology is used remains an ongoing discussion.

"One of the things we want to do is differentiate as much as possible," McLaurin said. "That means having conversations with each teacher about what their students need. If their students need to write with a pen and paper, then that's what we'll utilize. It's a collaboration between our team and the teachers, focused on them knowing their students and knowing what they want to accomplish."

Administrators said 539 parents participated in the survey, which is about 100 more than took the same survey last year.

"Eighty-four percent of parents felt confident they had some of the necessary skills to support a tech-enabled student," McLaurin said. "Only 41 percent of parents said they were aware of safety concerns, specifically. This rightfully is an area of concern we addressed this year, and will address moving forward."

According to BrightBytes data rankings, OPRF now rates as "advanced" in its use of classroom technology, just below its highest rating of "exemplary."