Students live in an on-demand, technology-dependent world. They learn differently and approach schoolwork differently than students did even a few years ago. The Athens City School District is prepared to meet the needs of this new generation of learners by increasing student access to computer technology during the school day.
The PowerUP Program will allow the Athens City School District to provide a challenging, dynamic academic program that integrates the best of traditional education with new and emerging technologies. Creative teaching strategies combined with engaging technology tools will empower students and teachers to reach the highest standards of educational excellence. Rather than teaching technology as a discrete subject, the Athens City School District plans to use a holistic approach where the technology skills and related computer projects will be integrated throughout the daily curriculum to foster active, student-centered, hands-on learning. The goal of our PowerUP Program is to strengthen the communication, collaboration, and creative ability for all students in all classes.
Students using computers become active participants in the classroom instead of passive listeners because they are recording, accessing, manipulating, and presenting information. Students use a variety of software including word-processing, note-taking, Internet research, communication, presentation, and collaboration programs. This can be a creative process with multimedia and interactivity which are impossible with paper and pencil.
Students with computers can be facilitated by the teacher to take a more active role in their own learning. They can be challenged to find answers to curricular problems using the Internet for research and communication. Computers can help promote this shift to more project-based, student-centered learning, and away from lecture-based learning. Lecture-based learning will not, and should not, disappear; however, the dynamic content environment enabled by every student having a computer allows teachers to reduce the amount of class time devoted to lecturing. The accessibility of Internet resources enables the teacher to move from being the sole authority/expert/lecturer to be more of a facilitator of students seeking knowledge. Helping students learn how to learn is one of the key roles of the teacher.
Access to information & communication
The Internet provides access to an incredible array of information sources, media, and communications. Many of our textbooks include an electronic version and/or supplementary resources. The digital texts often include additional multimedia elements. Email, Google Apps, and our Learning Management System, Canvas, allow a greater flow of information between learners and teachers. Since many assignments can be submitted and graded electronically, students will receive instantaneous feedback.
Supporting "higher-order thinking skills"
Computers provide a learning platform on which students are able to retrieve, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information from a variety of sources, and in a variety of formats. The process of creating multimedia projects can require these critical thinking skills as students make decisions about what to include and how to structure their projects for their intended audience.
Technology offers increased accessibility to class resources when every student has a computer. In these situations, assignments, activities, assessments, multimedia, email communication, tutorials, etc. can be provided over the web providing a wide range of instructional opportunities and “anytime anywhere” learning. The 1:1 initiative ensures that all students have access to a certain set of software, which allows teachers to craft assignments based on that access.
Differentiation & learning styles
Technology can provide greater opportunities for differentiation of instruction. Flexible assignments can allow student to choose how to pursue and present their learning. Multimedia applications (showing pictures, sounds, and videos) are conducive to the learning styles of various learners. Some software programs target exercises for each pupil by conducting a pre-assessment and presenting problems based on prior responses to improve areas of weakness.
Cooperative learning and collaboration
Teachers can utilize cooperative-learning and technology integration at the same time since technology enables shared documents and shared work-flow. For example, students can work with partners or small groups to complete a writing activity, viewing each other’s comments and suggestions. The growing use of “web 2.0” collaborative software allows information and media to be exchanged and edited online in real time from anywhere in the world.
Assignment submission & archiving
Technology allows students to electronically save and submit their assignments in ways that are impossible through traditional means. This leads to several advantages like tracking student progress over time, date-stamping assignment submissions, and easy access to a portfolio of student work.
Preparation for college & career
With computers and various forms of technology moving more prominently into the mainstream of typical life and business, it is important to teach our students how to be expert information hunter-gatherers. Gaining experience in word processing, Internet research, online learning, and various software programs, etc. are essential educational needs for students to become successful in college and careers. Today’s high school graduates must be experienced users of information technology.
Writing across the curriculum
Word processing makes writing a significantly more enjoyable process for students. Research shows that students do more writing and editing when they have computers and know that their peers will read their work.
Mathematics & science education is made richer and more engaging with the aid of software tools like spreadsheets and other specialized software for mathematical modeling, analysis, and simulation software tools.
History & social studies education is enriched by students having immediate access to the vast wealth of information available on the Internet. Historical events can literally “come to life” with archived videos that are available via the Internet. Computers also provide a platform for the creation and presentation of multimedia-rich projects.
Foreign language educational success correlates strongly with the time students are able to spend in immersive environments. The multimedia capabilities of computers allow students to spend more time listening and speaking in the language of instruction. With the right software, and a set of headphones, a computer can function like a language-lab workstation. Computers also provide access (through the Internet) to the newspapers, magazines, and media of the countries of that language.
Art, music, and drama
In art, music, and drama computers provide easy access to examples of best practices. Students visit virtual museums, listen to music clips, and watch videos of great performances. Students also use software to create artwork, practice music, and edit digital video.
The use of instructional technology adds value to instruction and deepens student learning.
Technology tools provide an environment that encourages collaboration, creativity and communication. The use of computer technology has moved beyond computer assisted instruction in the form of tutorials or drill and practice. Today's technology can provide teachers and students with opportunities for teaching and learning that were impossible in the past. The use of technology can help craft a new vision that empowers our students to own and lead more of their learning.
Teachers are the core ingredient in student learning.
Teachers have the greatest effect on student learning. Technology is simply another tool to help in this process. Even the most sophisticated technology still needs to be guided by strong pedagogy.
Technology tools are not the “silver bullet” that will solve all educational issues.
Student success is affected by many factors, only one of which is the use of technology.
Risk taking is essential.
The use of digital devices as a part of instruction is going to require numerous changes by the teacher, sometimes resulting in success and sometimes not. Teachers must be assured that it is okay to take these risks, understanding that progress is still made even when experiencing failure. Lessons learned from failure are as just as valuable as lessons learned from success.
There is a time and place for everything.
The use of technology is not always required nor even useful. The classroom teacher must decide if the use of the technology will redefine the lesson or simply serve as a substitution for the traditional way in which they have taught.
The use of technology must always have a link to improving instruction.
We must be able to articulate that link, preferably with data-based research. However, the impact that technology has on the lives of students must be measured in multiple ways. The skills that technology bring to the classroom; collaboration, communication, and creativity, although vital for success in the 21st Century, cannot be measured by traditional methods.
Collaboration is the new normal.
As adults, we live in a technology-enabled collaboration environment. This is how they will work. This is how they should learn.
Effective professional development is the key to ensuring that technology becomes an integral part of the instructional process.
Teachers must be provided ongoing, sustained professional development. In addition, and most importantly, teachers who help other teachers improve their use of technology in an instructional setting are the “secret sauce” of technology effectiveness. We must build capacity from within, supporting our teachers as district leaders.
Students should be viewed as partners in the use of technology tools.
The more comfortable a learner (adult or student) is with the technology, the more it becomes invisible. The invisibility of the tools leads to greater instructional value. Therefore, teachers and students must work together to ensure successful use of technology tools for learning.
Progress should be celebrated and showcased.
The work of students and teachers using instructional technology should be shared with other teachers, students, parents and our community whenever possible. Success should be highlighted.
Instructional technology is not a fad.
The use of technology as a daily part of instruction is not something that is going to be here today and gone tomorrow. The effective use of instructional technology is a long-term process that leads to systemic change in instructional pedagogy. Quick results are not expected and long-term support is required.
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Power Up - Year 1
During the first year of the program, all teachers in grades 7-12 received a 13” Apple MacBook Air combined with an abundance of professional development training. Approximately 1700 hours of professional development have been attended by teachers since September of 2013 - most of which has occurred after school hours. Laptops carts (20 mobile carts that hold 30 laptops each) were added at the high school and middle schools so that teachers could take the skills they learned during their professional development training and immediately apply the knowledge with their students. Additionally, all teachers in grades K-6 received an iPad and 600 more student ipads were be distributed among the five elementary schools, adding to what is already in the schools and making most 4th grade classrooms 1:1.
Year two of the project will continue to focus heavily on teacher professional development. In addition, laptops will be placed directly in the hands of every student in grades 7-12. Students in grades 7-12 will use the device at school and will be allowed to take the device home every day. Three hundred more iPads will be added in year two of this project for grades K-6. In year three, 800 more ipads will be added in grades K-6. This addition, combined with the laptops in grades 7-12, will assure that every student in the Athens City School District will have access to a digital device every day in school.
"The PowerUP Program is an investment in our students and this community. Our ultimate goal is to find the point at which sound pedagogy, content knowledge and technology meet to provide our students with the engaging and personalized learning they deserve."
Trey Holladay, Superintendent of Education
What is the PowerUP?
The Athens City School District offers students access to a variety of technological resources to complement instruction and to encourage creativity, collaboration and communication. The purpose of the PowerUP Program is to expand this access by providing each student with a digital device during an academic year for use at school and, in some grade levels, at home.
What do students receive?
Each student in grade 7-12 receives a MacBook Air with a power charger and a carrying case that may be taken home. Devices will be taken up each summer and returned to students when school resumes. A seventh grade students will keep the same device for two years. A high school student will keep the same device for four years. Students in grades K-6 receive iPads to use at school.
How will students use this technology in the classroom?
Students will be able to use their MacBooks and ipads to expand their resources beyond textbooks to solve real world problems using 21st century skills. These skills include collaborating, communicating, analyzing, creating and innovating.
Are textbooks on the computers?
Currently, students may access resources provided by the textbook vendors via the Internet; however, the complete textbook will not be on the computers during the first year of the program. Students will have access to other digital resources such as Google Apps for Education, Canvas and the productivity and creativity software that is preloaded on the devices.
What training is required before students get a device?
All parents and students are required to attend a training/orientation session prior to being issued a device.
What training are teachers receiving on how to use technology as a part of their curriculum?
Teachers have participated in over 1,700 hours of professional development during the 2013-2014 school year - most of it occurring after school hours with no additional compensation to the teachers. They are attending the professional development because they see the value this brings to the classroom and to our students.
How much are the annual fees for this program?
A device protection fee of $50 ($25 for students eligible for free/reduced lunch program as of July 1, 2014, $40 for those families with multiple students enrolled in Athens Middle and/or Athens High School) is collected prior to issuing the computer and accessories to the student. This fee covers the normal wear and tear of the laptop, carrying bag, and computer software. It is not prorated nor it is refundable.
How will Athens City Schools prevent access to inappropriate websites?
The laptops will include Internet content filtering software, which will limit access to inappropriate content while at school and at home. However, no content filter is capable of preventing access to all online content that is not school-related and/or inappropriate; therefore, parents should be actively involved in monitoring the use of the Internet in the home.
What can parents/guardians do at home to help protect children on the Internet?
Parents must monitor the use of the computer at home. While the district's filter is still in place and monitors student access to Internet sites, parents should set guidelines for usage of the devices at home. Free resources for parents can be found at www.commonsensemedia.org.
Can students connect their device to a home network?
Yes, the device can be used to access the Internet at home.
What happens if the device is damaged or lost?
If the device is damaged or lost, the student should take the device to the Helpdesk located in the school library. By taking possession of a device and its accessories, the student and parent(s) (or legal guardian(s)) agree to assume full responsibility for the safety, security, care, and proper use of a device and its accessories. A Device Protection Plan is required with respect to the mobile devices, which should assist the student and parent(s) or legal guardian(s) by providing for the replacement and repair of damaged, stolen, or lost devices.
What happens if device accessories are damaged or lost?
A student/parent/guardian is fully responsible for the replacement cost of any device accessories (charging cable, charging adapter, carrying bag) damaged or lost while in their possession. Replacement costs of the accessories are based on the price for which the Athens City School District purchases replacement accessories from 3rd party vendors.
What happens if the damage or loss is caused by bad acts?
Students/parents/guardians may be held fully responsible for damages or loss caused by dishonest, fraudulent, intentional, negligent, or criminal acts, including but not limited to altering the operating system and the removal of the Athens City School District provided identification code. This may include the suspension or termination of the student’s ability to use a device and its accessories, disciplinary action against the student, and/or legal action against the parent (or legal guardian(s)). State law provides that parents, custodians, and guardians are responsible financially for their minor child’s destructive acts against school property or persons (Alabama Code - Section 16-1-24).
Can a student/parent/guardian repair the device?
Although students/parents/guardians are responsible for the costs of any repairs to a mobile device (to the extent that the protection plan does not apply), the Athens City School District is responsible for arranging for the performance of any and all repairs to a mobile device. Students and parents (or legal guardians) may not and should never attempt to repair a device themselves or through any party other than the school district.
Who may I contact if I have further questions?
Questions can be addressed to Dr. Chris Hamilton, Technology Coordinator, at 256-771-7145 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Further details related to various aspects of the use and care of the devices can be found in the PowerUP Handbook.
A digital citizen is someone who uses web-based communication and collaboration tools as part of his or her daily routine to share ideas, plan activities, and stay in touch with others.
Digital Citizens blog, comment, like, chat, tweet, connect, and follow--they "live" on the Internet and use it to stay in touch and build relationships, often with people they may never have met in person. In using these web-based tools, however, students must learn basic skills for communicating effectively. They must have basic computer literacy skills, web literacy skills – how to distinguish between information that is credible and information that is not, how to determine if websites are private and secure, and understand the difference between synchronous (Skype) and asynchronous communication (email).
To address these topics, the school district utilizes the curriculum resources provide by Common Sense Media. Examples of the units provided in their curriculum include:
• Internet Safety
• Privacy & Security
• Relationships & Communication
• Digital Footprint & Reputation
• Self-image & Identity
• Information Literacy
• Creative Credit & Copyright