Several weeks ago, I approached my principal on behalf of my team (because I’m the outspoken one – go figure) with the idea that we use this year’s math textbook adoption money to buy netbooks for our 4th grade students. Today, she approached me and said that our central services was considering the idea, but they needed a written justification/proposal. Well, she turned to me. So, I turned to my Twitter PLN (hello… have you gotten the idea from me that you should be on Twitter?). Within minutes, I had a list of resources via tweets, several direct messages and emails with links to research to support this idea. Then, I had requests for the research. Of course, I shared. If you are interested, you can find all the links I compiled at my del.icio.us bookmarks. Finally, I had a request or two for the proposal itself. So, here goes. Admitedly, this proposal is more about passion and potential than about research and funding, I believe that it is the root of commitment that my central services is seeking.
If you get a chance, I would LOVE some feedback (especially suggestions for improvement or other points to add). I kept my focus on math because that would be the funding that we’re asking to re-allocate this year. I know the uses are endless and applicable across the board! I am excited that my principal is so on board and I feel like she will fight for us. Let’s hope!
The fourth grade teachers at CPS are requesting to use the funds allocated for math textbook adoption in the 2009-2010 school year to help begin a one to one (1:1) student laptop initiative. As we considered the various textbook options that were arriving at our schools, we looked over each of them carefully. We studied, we compared and we criticized. We also looked at them next to our current adoption. As we discussed, we realized that we use our math books as a supplement, rather than a primary resource. Frankly, none of us have used our math books more than twice this year. They sit in our classroom cubbies and have been replaced with activities that we have created, researched and shared that are designed based on the assessment data we collect from our students on a daily basis. In our weekly team planning we look at hands-on and interactive lessons that can be used to tap into what we know are “best practices” when teaching math. These are not the types of lessons that we find buried in a math book. When given the opportunity to reflect on our practices and collective expertise, we decided that a more influential use of this money would be to fund a class set of wireless ready netbooks that could be used as a set or in smaller groups to facilitate differentiated learning with 21st century tools. We have a variety of reasons why we feel that this is most effective for our students. Although a set of thirty netbooks would not immediately achieve the desired 1:1 computing initiative, it would allow us to share the set among the grade level, creating a 2:1 student:computer ratio.
First, we can efficiently deliver differentiated learning experiences for our students to meet their individual needs. Online programs like Edmodo, which works similarly to Blackboard or Moodle, can be used to send students individual and group assignments which can be reviewed and assessed using immediate and comprehensive feedback. With the newest forms of SMART Notebook software for each of these computers, students will be even more active engaged in the use of SMART Technologies in our classrooms. These computers and the SMART Notebook software for students, they will be creating their own understanding through interaction. We can use the online access to bring in experts through communication programs like Skype. We will be able to reflect using wikis and blogs to capture our learning and share with others. As a team, we are currently creating a wiki to be an accessible and BCS Pacing Guides. This wiki will be a “living document” that be accessed by teachers, students and parents as a means to introduce, enhance and reinforce the concepts that we studying. Even with the 2:1 ratio, students would have active and hands-on access to these guided programs on a daily basis. While we understand the need for balance between more traditional methods of instruction and the integration of these technological skills, we feel that we can effectively create a system of learning that will meet the needs our students using the combined resources of Accelerated Math, our current textbook, Study Island and similar programs, with hands-on and virtual manipulatives. Using these materials and the collective experience of our team, we feel that we can create the most impact on the lives and learning of our students.
In addition to the wealth of mathematical resources that will be available to our students, we will be facilitating the development of the skills needed to be successful as students and citizens in the 21st century. These skills will focus on collaboration, critical thinking, discretionary research and problem solving with a global focus. We will also be able to use these netbooks to enhance instruction in all areas of our students’ days and as a way to provide essential community outreach through technology. We are excited about the possibilities that a 1:1 or 2:1 computer initiative offers the students of Chocowinity Primary School and beyond.
“Ten Lessons Learned: Considerations for School Leaders When Implementing One-to-One Learning.” Toy, Chris. Meridian: A Middle School Technologies Journal. http://www.ncsu.edu/meridian/win2008/tenlessons/03.htm
“The North Carolina 1:1 Learning Collaborative” The William and Ida Friday Institute for Educational Innovation. http://www.fi.ncsu.edu/1to1/
CoSN Case Studies on 1:1 Initiative. http://www.classroomtco.org/gartner_intro.html#case
“The Case Against Textbooks” Richardson, Will. Author, Blogs, Wikis and Podcasts. http://weblogg-ed.com/2005/04/16/
“Textbook Research.” Edutech Wiki. http://edutechwiki.unige.ch/en/Textbook_research
Cromwell, S. (1999). Laptops change curriculum — and students. Education World. Retrieved November 6, 2003, from
Collective research of Bethany V. Smith, Instructional Technologist and Graduate Student, NC State University