By Nancy Whitney
In an effort to introduce the benefits of technology at a younger age, students at Watkins and Smith Elementary will be the test subjects in a new initiative that will rollout in the 2015-’16 school year. The district has decided to purchase and use iPads in all classrooms at the two schools.
“Our goal with this iPad initiative is to accelerate the quality instruction that we already see happening in Wylie ISD,” said Amber Teamann, principal at Whitt Elementary and is helping pilot the new initiative. “We want to advance the way our students learn, fuel innovative teaching and create classrooms without walls.”
Each classroom teacher in grades K-4, at Whitt and Smith campuses, will be provided five iPads, plus one for themselves. Within the initiative, teachers will go through an entire year of supportive, differentiated professional development.
A URLearning District Team was initiated to support teachers in the effective and successful integration of the technology into their curriculum.
The team is comprised of assistant principals and learning specialist. They will work closely with the Coordinator of Instructional Technology, Lee Hattaway, and the Director of Staff Development, Melissa Heller. Teachers are being trained in the new program throughout the summer and school year and will meet monthly throughout the 2015-’16 school year to increase the teachers capacity, monitor integrations and build teacher resources.
“By beginning with two campuses, we have the opportunity to define what true technology integration looks like for an elementary campus,” said Teamann. “We want strong pedagogy to the driver, and allow technology to be the accelerator.”
Teamann said implementers of the new program have researched other districts and found where they have fallen short and are determined to learn from those mistakes.
“Professional development, teacher support and strong instruction is what will make this initiative successful,” she said. “Adding technology to a classroom is not a silver bullet, but it is an opportunity to personalize learning, to deepen and enrich their classroom experience.”
Teamann said the process will be ongoing and full of discussion, experimentation and evaluation. She plans to work closely with learning specialists to ensure that instruction and seamless integration is at the forefront of the initiative.
“Our focus will be on the “verbs” coming out of these classrooms, vs. the “nouns” …meaning it won’t be app driven, but student product driven,” she said. “Technology has the capacity to empower students to research, create, connect, and collaborate, and we will still maintain a high standard of instructional practices.”
The cost is $200,000 for the iPads plus the cost of wireless access points. The purchase was approved during the May board meeting. The technology will remain in the classroom, and are not allowed to be taken home.