USD 232 school board discusses adding 1:1 devices to K-5 classrooms

Secondary students in the USD 232 school district are utilizing technology in the classroom this school year. Photo courtesy of USD 232

The USD 232 school board is considering the next step in its 1:1 technology initiative: Providing some type of technology devices for each elementary student’s use in class.

Discussions for this next step continued at the school board meeting Monday night, although teachers, parents and staff have been discussing strategies for implementation of technology in the classroom since as early as 2012.

The school district’s technology committee will meet later this month and make a recommendation about the elementary devices, including which types of devices (laptops or iPads) for which grade levels as well as scheduling for the rollout of the new devices.

The school board in March will formally consider purchasing devices for elementary classrooms. If approved, the district would implement devices in the 2020-21 school year.

“We look at these as just a tool for education,” said Joseph Kelly, director of curriculum and instruction. “The teacher is still the most important resource that our students have in terms of learning.”

The Shawnee Mission School District rolled out its own $50 million 1:1 technology initiative about six years ago. Teachers and parents have raised concerns about the use of technology by students, especially where it impacts learning.

Beginning this school year, the USD 232 district already moved forward with purchasing Macbook Airs for individual student use in grades 6-12. The school board in March had approved the acquisition of 4,250 student MacBooks for secondary students, plus 600 teacher devices in K-12 classrooms. The cost is $1.175 million annually and good for a four-year lease.

Students will not be able to take their devices home. Teachers will also have access to the same types of devices as students, said Superintendent Frank Harwood.

How students use technology in class this year

Nichole Gurwell, district instructional specialist for elementary classrooms, said elementary teachers were able to utilize some of the iPads, Logitech crayons and wired keyboards purchased for the trial period during this school year and make five classrooms have one device for each student’s use in the classroom.

In a video presented to the school board, elementary teachers and students shared about different ways of learning through the use of technology.

“When I use technology, it’s not what can I do with the technology; I look at the lesson and then see how technology can improve the lesson,” said one elementary teacher. “But sometimes, it’s not needed, and so we don’t use it. It just depends on what the lesson is about, and whether or not it’s going to enhance the lesson and make it come alive for a child.”

Rachel Mikel, district instructional specialist for secondary classrooms, provided some examples of technology use in secondary classrooms, including collaborative student projects as well as personalized and creative learning strategies that technology enhances to help teachers demonstrate concepts.

“This is truly student-centered; this is not about our devices, it’s about what we’re doing for our students and what they can do in their classrooms,” Mikel said.

School board members had a few technical questions about the process, such as formatting the devices each new school year, but overall shared their support for the technology initiative up to this point.

“I was impressed with the rollout of devices,” said Stephanie Makalous, school board member. “I know that is a huge, huge undertaking in a small amount of time, especially when you’re dealing with kids.”