Posted Date: 04/03/2017
1:1 at Duncan Middle School Is Working, by Superintendent Melonie Hau
Duncan Middle School is two weeks into its 7th grade Chromebook pilot. We have experienced a few challenges and have been delighted by stories of successful engagement.
Two challenges which have caught parents’ and the community’s attention are access to the devices and the user fee. The goal of using Chromebooks in the classroom and allowing secondary students to take these devices home is to provide greater availability to technology as a tool for learning. We researched many districts across the country which provide one device for one student, also known as 1:1. Many of these districts allow students to take devices home, much like students take home a textbook. If we do not allow each student access to a device, we have not achieved the purpose of this initiative.
We did have some delay in making sure every 7th grade student has a device available. Part of this was our team learning how best to approach families about the responsibility of taking a device home. We have worked through these challenges and beginning this week every 7th grade student will have access to a Chromebook.
Some have questioned why we are charging a $30 user fee. The reason for the fee is to ensure any repairs to the devices will be covered. Another reason for the fee is to help families understand that although the school has purchased the device, we all have ownership in them. The school board and our technology task force team debated for weeks about whether we should charge a user fee. We communicated with districts that did not charge a fee, but these were districts where students were not allowed to take devices home. Districts that do allow students to take devices home charge a user fee of $40 or more. Our decision was to keep the fee at a lower rate and study its impact. Families have been able to pay the fee through a payment plan or we have covered the fee for families who need it.
Community members have been willing to donate money for scholarships to cover the user fee because they know school budgets are strained due to statewide budget cuts. If you would like to help provide a scholarship for the user fee, donate to the Duncan Public Schools Foundation at www.duncankids.org.
Moving to a one to one environment means we must be willing to solve problems as they arise. We know we cannot anticipate every challenge when we are doing something so bold and innovative. Yet, we do know this is what our community asked us to do for students based on a survey from the fall of 2015. And it is paying off. I am hearing stories of students who are now turning in homework who would normally take zeros on assignments. I know teachers are restructuring lessons so all students are more actively involved. I have seen students eagerly helping one another learn to use the device and create documents. Collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking are skills which are rapidly growing each day we use the devices.
Thank you for your patience and support as we meet these learning challenges. Duncan Public Schools strives to foster excellence for every student in every learning environment across the district. The 7th grade pilot is only the first phase of our deployment. All middle school students will have access to devices beginning in August of 2017. We are excited about the technology initiatives we are launching and look forward to more to come.