SYRACUSE — It was one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken by the Wawasee Community School Corporation. Putting a mobile electronic device in the hands of every student and teacher in the entire school district, not just a few grade levels as in the past.
This project, which took several months to plan and implement, came to be known as the 1:1 initiative. Now that the school year is winding down and will be finished next week, it has become clear the devices have had a significant impact on student learning, though there have been some bumps along the road.
Devices were distributed just prior to the start of the school year. Much infrastructure work had to be completed during last summer to be ready for the use of hundreds of devices. There was also a relatively short amount of time for teachers to become familiar with the devices and training has been ongoing even through the school year.
So how have the devices really impacted student learning and what have been the challenges encountered? Teachers use the devices daily and were asked how they feel teaching and student learning have been impacted, as well as the challenges faced.
“I think one of the positives of having one to one devices would be the engagement of the students,” said Nancy Rehling, sixth-grade science teacher at Wawasee Middle School. “Students enjoy researching and finding out more about some of the topics we are studying. If a question comes up in a class discussion we want to know more about, students are quick to look up the answer and share it with the class.”
Alison Weaver, visual arts teacher at WMS, said students have been given the opportunity to be more independent about their education. “Students can check their own grades, email teachers and work on assignments all on their own wherever they are,” she noted.
Feedback from Milford School indicated teachers can give more individualized attention to each student. Software allows teachers to see what each child is learning and to assess daily their instruction. Their lessons can then be adjusted accordingly for the next day.
Apps and online programs allow for different types of instruction, research information is “at our fingertips,” much time is saved and students and teachers can collaborate more often.
Mariah Roberts teaches agriculture at Wawasee High School and said the use of Google Classroom keeps students and teachers in constant communication. “There are no excuses for students to not know what is going on in class or what is due and when,” she commented.
Jordan Sharp is a health and physical education teacher at the high school and said the devices have allowed for more and easier access to educational content for students.
With a project this large in scope challenges and difficulties were expected and they have occurred. Some devices simply failed to work properly or were broken, some students failed to charge them before bringing them to school and internet access at home is not available for all students.
Another challenge has been getting some students to understand the wise and proper use of the devices and the fact assignments given digitally are graded and just as important as paper and pencil assignments.
Certainly there has been a learning curve for both teachers and students, but professional development will be offered during the summer and through the next school year to increase the effectiveness of the use of the 1:1 devices in classroom teaching and learning.