On Thursday evening (10.17.2013) our Worthington Schools Community Technology Team met for our regularly scheduled monthly meeting. This community technology team is made up of Worthington residents who are technology professionals, Worthington Schools teachers and administrators, several high school students, and a board of education member. A major focus from our discussion on Thursday evening was the concept of one to one computing. Thus, I was very interested when I opened the Sunday (10.20.2013) Columbus Dispatch and read that Columbus City Schools was planning for a one-to-one computing initiative for all 7th – 12th grade students as part of their November operating levy request.
One to one computing is the concept that every student has their own device, typically a lap-top or tablet. Most educators believe that this will be necessary in the near future in order for all of our students to access the curriculum in meaningful ways. Some districts are already at this point. In Worthington we’re not close. In the last six months we have added almost 500 new lap-tops to our schools and another 100 or so tablets. These computers provide more flexibility to our schools and more access for our students, but we’re a long way from one to one. (We do have a Bring Your Own Device policy that encourages and allows students to bring their computers to class.)
The good news is we have worked hard to upgrade our infrastructure and we are very close to being ready to support many more devices. All Worthington School buildings are set-up with robust wireless networks. Last year we outfitted our central office with a back-up generator to make sure our servers and our network will run when there are power outages, and by December we will have completed a massive upgrade of our bandwidth. The final piece will be a new line to an alternate internet provider should our current provider be down or experiencing delays. When the bandwidth is in place we will also open of the settings on our internet filter. Currently, some things, such as You-tube, are blocked to conserve the bandwidth. After December students and teachers should experience more freedom, greater speed, and many less issues.
With that in mind our community tech committee discussed several one to one ideas. One would be similar to Columbus. The district would purchase the computers for students in designated grades and students would use them like they use their textbooks now, at home, at school, at the public library, etc… Obviously this is a very expensive option. We also discussed a modified one to one program such as the one the Mariemont City Schools in Cincinnati has. The district would issue spec’s and parents would be required to purchase a device that matched the specs for students to use at school and at home. The district would provide devices for some families who met specific income eligibility requirements, possibly similar to the requirements for the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch program. The idea being that all students would have a device and that income wouldn’t be a barrier.
The questions around how to best provide students access to technology are big questions and we have a long way to go before we are ready to answer them. In order to get a feel for what our parents, students, and teachers, would like to see in technology our school district is asking each group to provide feedback on a technology survey. The results of this survey will help guide the future conversations and plans created by the community technology team. Please take the parent survey here or the teacher survey here.
In the meantime, Worthington Schools is currently writing a grant for one to one computing in grades 9-12 through Ohio’s Straight A Fund grant program. Although our odds of getting the grant our slim, we believe that a one to one program with students in grades 9-12 would personalize learning for students, it would better engage students and therefore reduce the failure rate, and over time, it would reduce the need for some of our intervention courses and credit recovery, thus making the costs neutral.
We live in a world where access to technology is critical. In order to compete, the students of Worthington will need to utilize technology in ways both big and small. How we get there is really the question.