Ridley School District plans to create a 21st century system that will allow all students to utilize their talents and abilities in an ‘anywhere, anytime’ learning environment that provides effective and appropriate uses of technology to assure that all students achieve to their fullest potential. In order for this vision to become reality, we will need to change the way we look at time, the way we look at achievement, and the way we look at how our students learn. Our challenge will be to put the necessary tools in place, train our staff to fully implement their use, and then allow our students the freedom to learn and explore in new ways.
Time - Technology Increases Time on Task Based on Individual Needs
“There is never enough time in the school day,” is a common complaint among teachers. We know that all students can learn, but we also know that it takes more time for some to learn than others. If we allow ourselves to see the school day and year to stretch well into the evening hours and throughout the summertime, we can provide the time needed for all students to achieve at high levels.
Our typical school day will provide technology, completely integrated into the curriculum, used by teachers and students as seamlessly as paper and pencils are used today. Multimedia applications and video on demand will be available to enhance an English lesson, a distance learning room will be utilized by a business education class that is having a conference with a Wall Street broker, social studies classes will make extensive use of the Internet for their term paper research, a science class will watch a satellite downlink from the space shuttle, and a foreign language class will have video conferences via the Internet with classrooms in Madrid. Teachers will be clearly comfortable and confident in the use of the technology as a result of thorough and effective staff development. They will also use this technology to quickly and efficiently order supplies and services via e-commerce systems integrated into district purchasing software. Students will have learned to use the technology as the result of early and frequent exposure to a technology rich environment from the earliest grades. Our current technology plan calls for all of this to occur using existing school district resources.
This plan requires a fundamental change in the way we deliver instruction. It provides for the development of a comprehensive digital curriculum which extends and expands the classroom instruction by providing additional practice and remediation as well as expanded enrichment and acceleration opportunities. For example, if a fourth grade student has trouble learning the concepts of area and perimeter during a lesson at school, the district’s online curriculum system will be available that evening for parent and student to log on and review the day’s lesson, try extra problems, and have opportunities to try more challenging applications. The system would automatically report to the teacher and the parent, by e-mail, that the student had been accessing the system and summarize the work that was done. On-line chat rooms conducted periodically in the evening by the teacher allow students to ask questions and learn from each other in a different setting than in the classroom. Students needing further remediation or enrichment will continue their studies online during summer months in a “virtual summer school.” Only through this new use of virtual instructional time will we truly be able to bridge the divide that separates students of different abilities and produce independent and self-directed learners with critical 21st century skills.
Assessment: Training Teachers to be Data-Driven
The second aspect of our plan is to provide effective assessment of student progress, linked to specific standards and objectives, and analyzed by appropriate software to allow teachers to have rapid feedback on each student in order to guide and individualize future instruction and to maximize achievement. Too often in education we give a test, record the results, and move on to the next unit. Teachers do not consider the wealth of information that may be available from a good assessment instrument and which may be applied to effectively target specific weaknesses which may then be addressed in small group instruction via flexible needs groups. Our vision is to develop assessment tools to allow teachers to be data driven in their lesson planning so that achievement against each standard may be measured, accounted for, and verified for each student. These assessments may be conducted through online tests, teacher observations recorded on a wireless Palm Pilot, or through more traditional, machine scored assessments. Teachers will also use web-based gradebooks which will provide direct communications with parents. Each time a new grade or comment is entered into the software, an automatic e-mail will be sent notifying the parent. Parents will be able to obtain up-to-date information on their child’s grades, assignments, attendance, and discipline records. The system will eventually make the current four marking period system completely obsolete in favor of a continuous reporting system.
Our Students: The Multi-tasking Generation
Today's students currently use more technology outside of the classroom than during school hours. Once curriculum resources, effective assessments, and instructional aides are available online, students will have 24 x 7 access to the learning tools they need to be competitive. These tools will also be available to parents who can work with their children at home. We need to allow our students to have the freedom to explore, work at their own pace and to take advantage of the power that technology brings to their fingertips.
Changes in instructional strategies and practices occur from year to year. Accessibility of one to one computing in the classroom will focus more on 21st century instructional methods. Using one to one computing, students will be engaged and take a more active role in instruction and learning.