Bellingham Public Schools will put two replacement levies on the ballot this February. These levies, our operations levy and our technology levy, are to help pay costs that the state does not fund. They would replace two voter-approved levies from 2012 that are set to expire. Our operations levy comprises about 25 percent of our budget.
The expiring technology levy has funded important updates to our infrastructure equipment and services, school computers, and staff providing technical support, training, and professional development. It also paid for a range of educational software, supported STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)-related initiatives, improved technology access for students in special education and continues to improve classroom instructional technologies.
For the upcoming replacement tech levy, we are considering a 1:1 technology model, which would mean middle and high school students get a take-home device (for classroom use, too), and students in grades 3 to 5 would get classroom-based devices.
A group of teachers, students, parents, community partners and other staff have been working hard this fall to uncover everything that goes into planning a 1:1 technology model, including challenges and benefits. This Student Technology Think Tank engaged and researched in a variety of ways between case studies, school visits, study sessions, survey data and industry speakers. They saw some amazing examples of how teachers, students and families can thrive when technology is integrated into classrooms with strong professional development, especially when it’s done with great thought and strong support.
The Think Tank’s 26 members gave unanimous support to the question, “Should Bellingham Public Schools move forward with a 1:1 initiative?”
As you read through the recommendation, what excites you about this opportunity? I’d love to hear your thoughts and reflections.
I’d like to share a reflection from Molly Foote, a fifth grade teacher at Wade King Elementary School, who served on the Student Technology Think Tank.
“I was concerned at first that computers would put walls up between students, but what we saw at Sammamish High School was the exact opposite. The computers were used as a powerful tool for collaboration. Students were engaging with each other while using shared resources on the computer. In my own classroom, my students are hungry for time on the computer. I have the laptops reserved for one hour each week, but this is not enough. I would love the use of computers in the classroom to be seamless and not be seen as a special event. If students want to explore a topic, create visual models, share ideas, edit a movie, work on independent projects, or extend their learning, the technology needs to be available at their fingertips. Access to computers in the classroom will allow students to take more ownership of their learning, enhance inquiry-based projects, and provide a fundamental tool for the collaborative classroom. “
If we move forward with a 1:1 initiative, and it’s approved, some schools may pilot 1:1 within the next two years. The replacement technology levy would start in 2017 and lasts until 2020.
We have time to plan and to ensure that it’s done well.
Safety is a primary concern. So is making sure our staff and students (and families!) feel supported and understand the technology (both the hardware and software), and utilize these tools to the best of their ability.
Two aspects of the 1:1 initiative that resonate strongly with me: the student perspective and equity.
Students who served on the think tank are some of our most enthusiastic supporters. I hear from many other students who say they are ready and want and need more technology not only to get their classroom work and homework done more efficiently and collaboratively, but that having access to a device of their own will help prepare them better for the future.
Imagine a life with fewer textbooks! No more lost homework. Fewer worksheets floating with coffee stains or excuses about your dog getting hungry.
Then there’s the equity piece. Some students already have and use personal devices, but many do not. Providing our students with mobile technology reinforces our commitment to equity. We believe more access to technology will provide greater efficiency, organization, collaboration and possibility for our students, teachers and families.
Our strategic plan, The Bellingham Promise, guides our work. In it, we promise to develop students and graduates who are skilled users of technology, effective communicators and well-rounded community members engaged with the broader world. Having technology incorporated into our classrooms will help our students be ready for the widest range of educational and vocational options to support a diversity of life choices. We live in a digital and mobile world, and technology is an important aspect of many careers, jobs, and secondary education paths.
I look forward to your comments!