DISD December 2011 Red and Blue – Is It In You?

Filed under: Schools |

As a district with a core belief of continuous improvement, Duncanville ISD is always looking for better ways to engage the hearts and minds of its students. In the past, that may have been paperwork and presentations, but today it’s technology and teamwork. That’s why we’re committed to creating 21st century learning experiences. Reaching students at their level and teaching them the skills they’ll need to thrive in our ever-advancing society, the district’s 21st Century classroom pilots are the “Red and Blue – Is It In You?” honoree for the month of December 2011.

A learning organization whose purpose is to foster profound learning, Duncanville ISD charted its path towards new technology two years ago using stimulus dollars from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to purchase mobile netbook computer labs. “Some of our campuses only had one [computer lab],” said Chief Academic Officer Liz Birdwell. “When that’s the case, classes are scheduled there all day, and teachers who want to do special projects have no place to go.” Last year the district piloted iPad and iPod Touch programs at two campuses. “We believe the mobile computing trend may have great potential as a more affordable tool to help students access resources and develop 21st century skills,” said Deputy Superintendent of Learning Services Dr. Larry McHaney. This year, even more technology is being introduced at each campus.

The district’s 21st century classroom pilots came from discussions between teachers and the Executive Leadership Team. “Many expressed the need for more access to technology,” explained McHaney. Teachers were invited to submit applications describing a wide variety of innovative projects and problems they would use to engage students in meaningful and relevant work this school year. Selected classrooms each received five laptops, wireless network access, printer(s), and laptop storage and charging cart(s) at the end of September. A total of 270 teachers on 66 different teams applied for the Pilot Projects. Thirty team applications totaling 133 teachers were approved, with at least one on each campus.

One of those thirty teams, third grade teachers from Smith Elementary applied to be able to take their students from paper and pencil learning to the technology that they crave. “We have to meet them at the level they come in,” said Lisa Treibly. “If they are all about computers, games, phones, and iPods, then why not bring that to the classroom? Why not enhance the technology they already know by showing them how to use it in an academic setting?” Receiving twenty laptops, five for each teacher, Treibly’s team has decided to rotate the entire set so that more students can have access at one time. The pilot isn’t just about technology – she has completely changed the environment of her classroom as well. “We don’t have pencil sharpeners any more, we use mechanical pencils. We’re also replacing our analog clocks with digital clocks. And I received new desks that are waist-high, so that the students can sit on chairs that have casters and move around the room. They can also push those chairs aside and stand.”

Committed to giving our students learning experiences that will develop their capacity to ask important questions, gather, evaluate, analyze, utilize and effectively communicate information, solve complex problems, and possess the empathy to care deeply about people and their world, the pilots were made possible by efforts of the entire district. “The Board of Trustees laid out specific goals for our district for the current school year,” explained Instructional Technology Coordinator Deborah Trujillo. “At the end of last year, we set aside excess COMP ED and Title I funds to use towards this pilot and get a jump start on the Board goals for the 2011-12 school year.” Despite a $5.1 million funding shortfall from the state, Duncanville ISD was also able to allocate $2 million from fund balance to outfit these 21st century classrooms. “It took clear, decisive, and coordinated action by the Board, administration, and teachers,” added McHaney.