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eLearning2: Impacting Learning and Living in Beta

Edina Public Schools is now starting year three of our eLearning2 Digital Age Learning initiative
We began giving students the option to bring their own device for their learning during the 2010 school year; we saw slow growth the first two years. At that time, the program was called "Go Wireless," and I chronicled our progress in posts here and here

In December of 2012 the district joined a partnership with Best Buy to provide the services of a Web store for families, and Geek Squad support for student devices two days a week in each of the three secondary schools. In return, families would see a significant discount on the price of the device when they checked out. For the last two years, we saw roughly 60% of our families in the grade levels eligible take advantage of this opportunity, and students would then bring a device for their learning. In addition, the district provided a Chromebook computer to all families of need. This partnership was the first of it's kind, and Best Buy is beginning to work with other districts around the country on similar models.

While the increased access was encouraging, and we saw pockets of transformation, the effect of an optional program was two-fold: 

  1. Many staff were reluctant to include activities if not all students had a device
  2. Students felt that if not all staff were utilizing the devices, why should they bring them to class?
We were BYOD, but not truly 1:1. While there were pockets of great things happening, and we were able to supplement somewhat with carts for those who didn't have a device, we weren't meeting our mission of "All for All." While eLearning2 has always been about personalizing learning and transforming instruction, lack of a requirement for students to bring a device and teachers to implement digital age learning meant we weren't where we needed to be.

No Longer Optional
This year, we have moved to a hybrid BYOD model. We opened up the Web store for families in grades 6, 8 and 9 to purchase their own device. We are continuing to provide a district provided Chromebook for families in need, and in addition: all students who either chose not to purchase a device; or those who purchased a device they are unsatisfied with; or a device that broke, are being provided with a district provided Chromebook. We have also changed from saying bringing a device is optional to making it a requirement that all students have a device. In addition, we have declared that the minimum device is one that runs the Chrome browser and has a keyboard. This means that phones are no longer considered a primary device, and can be used only at teacher discretion. So far, staff feel that this policy has been working well. If a student needs to take picture or video for a project, they ask for permission to use the phone. We also require that all secondary staff utilize our ecosystem of Moodle and Google Apps as their primary learning platform. 

For professional learning, we are focusing on a definition of Digital Age Learning that incorporates Content, Collaboration, and Creation.

We have been utilizing Carl Hooker's "Swimming Pool" model of SAMR in our discussions with staff, noting that SAMR is not a ladder to climb, but a pool to swim in. We are also saying that some days, it's ok to not get in the pool, but:
"It is no longer ok to never get wet!"
Not every lesson is going to get to the "redefinition" level, and that is ok! 
Staff have appreciated this model as it encourages growth, but, also doesn't force them to use one pedagogy. Just as we are trying to personalize learning for our students, allowing them to use the tools that will work best for them, we are trying to do the same for our teachers. 

Living in Beta 
For our district kickoff this year, my colleague, Molly Schroeder reprised her excellent TED talk on "Living in Beta." Molly noted that we are living in a world of constant change, where the tools we are using and our pedagogies are "in beta." It's ok to not know everything, and more importantly it's ok to fail! She says that the classroom is now a "community of problem solvers."

After hearing that talk, many staff have commented on how liberating it was. Along with the district endorsement, it has freed them up and given them permission to try new things and "live in beta!" It has truly been liberating, and staff are pushing themselves to try new things such as Google Classroom. There may be issues, but together, we can solve any problems and learn as a community.

So Far...So Good
So far, the school year has started out really well! Our media staff did a great job checking out Chromebooks to those that didn't have them, and our staff set an expectation from day one that students have a device for their learning. 
In talking with Shawn Dudley, principal at Valley View Middle School, she noted of the 13 observations she has done this year, "12 staff have included a digital formative assessment exit card. And none of them were the same! Some used Google Forms, some Socrative, and others KahootIt's been one of the best starts ever!
Staff have utilized our planning document along with a suggested road map for the first six weeks as they begin the year 1:1. Some quotes from staff include:
I'm able to have students work independently more often as we move through the first unit, allowing me to spend more time with students who are having questions, and letting students learn at their own pace.
On the second day of class, I had students logged into the network, joining Google Classroom, and working with Google docs. Brand new students have been logged into the network the day they start. These 6th graders are the most tech savvy crew I've ever had and have taught me a few new things in the first week. The kids couldn't wait to use their devices and students who were loaned devices had huge grins when they came back from the media center with their devices; I don't anticipate making many, if any, copies this year. 

Students have commented that:
I am much more organized, and I can understand what I am doing much better.
My device helps a lot, I'm able to create quizlets, write essays, store pictures and writing digitally and make presentations. 
Many teachers are taking advantage of having us take online notes, and utilizing Internet quizzes and tests. Teachers make us turn in homework online, and we have been using Google Sites to post our learning to the public. 
Here are some additional observations as the year has started:

Moving forward
As we move forward, we are continuing professional learning for staff on digital age learning, including after-school drop in sessions, individual meetings, online courses as well as another Technology and Learning Cohort where staff have the ability to earn a Technology Certificate through Hamline University, another one of our partners.

I recognize that while we are now truly 1:1, we need to continue to help staff get into the pool, try the deep end once in a while, and help students have authentic learning opportunities. As Patrick Larkin notes in this great post, we need to "stay uncomfortable!" Larkin mentions the work of Amy Edmonson, who defines different zones of implementation: the Apathy Zone, Anxiety Zone, Comfort Zone and Learning Zone. At this point, I would say we are in the latter stages of the Anxiety Zone. 

As we begin to implement our Next Generation Educational Competencies, I see many ways that Digital Age Learning will positively impact the ability of students to demonstrate mastery of these skills. 
Edina Next Generation Educational Competencies
I look forward to supporting staff and students "living in beta," helping us progress into the "comfort zone," and continuing forward into the "learning zone." Stay tuned!


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