Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Two 1-to-1 schools in northern Iowa


Recently I had an opportunity to visit two 1-to-1 schools. The first one BCLUW High school in Conrad, IA,  second  Waverly-Shell Rock middle school in Waverly, IA. Both schools have 1-to-1   program (one mobile, personalized computer per child) at school. Conrad equips all their students with MacBooks Pro, students in Waverly get iPads. In both cases students are trusted with their computers 24/7, with an exemptions of the Holiday and summer break.

Here are some of my notes from the visits:
Conrad:  
  • We met with Cari Teske, High School Principal and she told us about their history with 1-to-1. BTW, She and Mary Ascher, teacher librarian and technology integrationist seem to be a great tandem. But  at first they and the rest of the faculty had no clear vision how to take a full advantage of this new educational model.  They started without thinking much about the pedagogy. After couple years with  the help from Castle, they realized that teaching in 1-to-1 environment requires some modifications.  They started to treat the computers as one of many tools during the class time, rather than center of an attention. My thoughts went to TPACK framework, I am starting to see more and more wisdom in that framework.
  • I like that the new teachers go through the "culture bootcamp" rather than "technology bootcamp"   
  • Conrad. Visible amount of printed materials,
    mixed with more traditional artwork
  • I loved that they are able to give students individual attention. One student wanted to learn Chinese and they arrange ICN sessions with someone in different city. Talking about personalized learning
  • I was impressed with students work on Blender program and their use of 3D printer. Conrad students designed and printed plugs for the used IV bags so practicing nurses can reuse them as they work on dummies.They are working on patenting the product.

Waverly:
Classroom in Waverly. Modular desks on wheels
for easy reconfiguration. White surface tables
  • We met with Bridgette Wagoner, the Director of Educational Services. She use to be an Interim Director at Price Laboratory School, a change agent that helped Price lab move in to 1-to-1 and Iowa's Statewide Research and Development School, before the evil political sources decided to close the school. 
  • Teachers have freedom of design and choice of content. They work in the interdisciplinary teams, and support each other with the selection of content, and to show students relevance and continuity between subject areas.
  • I liked their descriptive grades. It is hard to wrap the head around at first, as whole my life I was receiving number or letter grades (in Poland the grading scale is 1-6) 
  • I liked the variety of resources and freedom of approaches during the class time. We walked in to the math class where some students worked on their iPads, some used piece of paper, some were writing on the desks (white surface for dry erase markers). Some were sitting on the floor, others on a different kind of chairs and wobbly stools designed for fidgety students. 
  • I loved to see QR codes used in library. As students walking in to the library they scan the QR code on a wall with their iPads and sign in via google form, QR are also placed on the back covers of some books so students can learn more about the book.
Student desk. Notice the variety of resources.
Both Conrad and Waverly are small towns with almost no diversity. As Bridgette Wagoner stated, kids in her school will be well with or without school. Almost all students come from good middle class homes that value education.

I would like to have an opportunity to observe the 1-to-1 environment in larger school with large socio-economic and cultural diversity. I would also like to see the school that chose the OS other than Mac.  Looks like Cedar Falls community district will move to 1-to1 starting next semester . According to the plan, by January, each high school student will receive their own Chromebook they can take between school and home.  I am anxious to see what kind of adaptations, changes, and challenges the will go through.  I also hope that Cedar Falls will prepare nice pathway for Waterloo schools and that they will be able to move to 1-to-1 before my twin girls graduate from preschool.

Kids working on their assigned problems.
Visible freedom of  choice with what medium and how will they prepare 

Corridor at Waverly. Students leave their iPads and other materials
 before walking in to locker room or bathroom under the surveillance camera
Waverly QR code to check in to media center


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