Benefits and Challenges of the One to One World in Maine and Vermont

Drew Blanchard, Adam Provost and I (Beth Brodie) traveled to Sanford, Maine in Mid-December to see how the one-to-one statewide laptop/device movement in Maine has changed education. What we learned was that they too, are celebrating many of the same successes we have achieved with our increased technology, and struggling with many of the same issues that we encounter in a one to one world.

Practices, such as flipped instruction where kids learn content on their own and practice collaboratively with their peers and student creativity were mentioned as a real plus. It was also related that kids out for illness (if not too sick) can often still participate in their classes virtually. In some classrooms we saw students use technology to videotape themselves in interviews and use a wide range of Ipad applications. It was reassuring to see that many of the forward thinking pedagogical practices we saw at Sanford reflected the practices we are already doing in both the Burlington and Winooski School districts.

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Issues surrounding digital citizenship, device management, off-task behavior and ichat were also brought up as examples of recurring issues that their technology committee and teams need to face regularly. (Hmmmm? Sounds like some of our faculty discussions surrounding technology.) It brought home to me, how, like with all good teaching, technology management is not a one shot deal, but rather a series of improving on best practices.

The discussion then turned toward what management systems are most effective for school environments. Electronic management systems often bring different levels of efficacy to the teachers, students and families that are trying to navigate them. Like our districts, Sanford talked about looking for the ultimate learning management system. Currently some teachers used Edmoto while others touted the benefits of Ebackpack. This is a serious consideration for all schools in the twenty-first century.

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The 2013 communication survey for Burlington schools touted Jupiter grades as being a wonderful way to stay in touch with student progress. On the downside, it is essentially an electronic grade book and can’t import grades from learning management systems. Nor can Jupiter grades allow for rich two-way communication or the utilization of rubrics, which will be critical to proficiency based learning. Management systems such as EDU 2.0 or EBackback actually show student assignments, the work they produce and the rubrics that evaluate them, but don’t offer features that will email or text grade averages on a weekly basis.

At the college level, Blackboard integrates a learning management system with a student data management system, but it requires a certain level of training and is not often seen in k-12 systems. The Family-School Partnership Iteam is looking into learning more about management systems. Iteam member Justin Graham participated in a webinar last week to learn more about Skyward, a comprehensive system used in public school by several states, and I am researching the capabilities of Hapara by google. What is clear is we need to discover a comprehensive program that will allow teachers to streamline their management of student work and give families a user-friendly portal to participate in their student’s education.

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