Digital Conversion

Digital Conversion? What & Why? What is 1:1 Computing?

Beginning in the 2011-2012 school year, the Natick Public Schools will seize an important opportunity for the students of this community. In the fall of 2011, all 8th grade students (the first freshman class of the new Natick High School) will be granted a laptop for every student. This type of one laptop for each student is referred to as 1:1 computing in an educational environment. The students at Kennedy and Wilson Middle Schools in partnership with their teachers, administrators and support personnel will kick- off Natick Public Schools’ digital conversion. With the opening of the new Natick High School Building, all students at the high school will also receive a laptop and the digital conversion for grades 8-12 will be well underway. The new Natick High School will become the most technologically advanced high school on the East Coast and all students, grades 8 through 12, will access their education with state-of-the-art Mac-based computing technologies.

What is a Digital Conversion?

Natick Public Schools is focused on providing resources for our grades Kindergarten to twelve students and staff to become immersed in A Digital Conversion. The purpose of the Digital Conversion Initiative is to employ technology in ways that improve teaching and learning through increased student engagement while teaching the Massachusetts curriculum standards on reading and mathematics. It is imperative to note that this project is a curriculum and instruction project, not a technology project. Through this paradigm shift in methodology, we are changing the way teachers teach and students learn, while utilizing an awesome set of technological tools.

These technological tools, wireless access to teacher and student learning management system, Moodle, interactive whiteboards, teacher infusion of web 2.0 technologies, and so much more are the vehicles Natick will use to transform teaching and learning. Mobile computing devices will significantly enhance the level of student interest, motivation, and engagement in learning. McCrea in her article, Making the most of 1:1 laptop initiative The Journal: Transforming education through technology, 2010, found that “teachers using the combination of laptops-plus-professional development to streamline classroom management and create a smooth flow between group and individual instruction.” This is 21st century learning.

Technology alone is not a panacea, thus the real focus is how we engage our students with this instructional tool to get results and add value to their academic performance. Our grades eight through twelve students, who will be participants in the 1:1 initiative, will take their laptops home daily to complete assignments, homework, projects, and for research. Teachers and students will use a learning management system–tools like Moodle, SchoolWorld or Edumodo–to clearly identify key learning experiences and activities, which can be accessed any time. The laptop, in coordination with cloud-based technologies like GoogleApps for education, will provide students and staff constant access to the most current information available through the Internet as well as multimedia tools, which supplements materials presented in textbooks and by teachers. As technology is integrated and infused within our instruction, digital content in the curriculum becomes a vital resource for students and teachers. The use of computers as an instructional tool is becoming increasingly important, just as technology continues to increase in importance in our everyday lives and in the workplace.

Moving into a constructivist model of teaching and learning, students are gaining valuable critical thinking, problem-solving and higher-order cognition skill all 21st century skills. With laptops at their fingertips, staff and students are becoming more globally aware. Students approach learning differently now. Crumley, in McCrea (2010) noted that “individual laptops also motivate students to tackle content that previously may have presented challenges for them” a benefit for all of our students. With our Digital Conversion, research, project based learning, and inquiry/problem solving activities will become second nature to Natick students.

The Natick Public Schools believes, however, that there is no substitute for the learning provided by qualified, trained and digitally savvy teachers. A digital conversion does not mean to replace teachers (doing so cannot) and our conversion to the use of digital learning modes is only as good as the teachers and staff who design learning experiences and deliver quality instruction. Education in the Natick Public Schools will seek to rely on digital technologies and platforms to deliver a mix of live, electronic and distance learning. This type of learning is called blended learning.

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