Mobile Technology for Students and 21st Century Classrooms

In 2014-15, approximately 22,000 student devices were deployed.  Kindergarten through eighth-grade students use Apple iPads, and high school students use Toshiba Portégés.  These devices, along with upgraded classrooms that house interactive whiteboards, Apple TV, voice amplification and new teacher computers, are providing TUSD students with a “Future Ready” classroom experience!

Mobile Technology for Students and 21st Century Classrooms

From The Orange County Register:

Tustin Unified schools are in the middle of a fundamental change. Walk into the district’s warehouse, and you’ll see tough, kid-friendly iPad cases. Stacks of gleaming computers are everywhere. The IT team is furiously preparing for the impending start of school, now just one week away.

This school year marks the push for TUSD Connect, a districtwide initiative combining technology upgrades, the state’s new Common Core teaching standards and digital coaching for teachers.

“What we’re trying to do is transition to 21st century learning,” said Kathie Nielsen, chief academic officer for the district. “And change the way our classrooms operate, the way teachers are teaching and kids are learning.”

TUSD Connect’s new technology is funded by Measure S, the bond voters passed in November to give students $135 million. Classes for kindergarten through fourth-grade will share carts of Apple iPads or iPad Minis, while grades five to 12 will each get their own iPads or Lenovo tablets.

Measure S-related upgrades – to the tune of $15 million – include new projectors and interactive whiteboards, as well as more wireless access points and better network infrastructure to handle the influx of devices.

Educators hail the tech venture as innovative. The goal is to challenge students to learn and collaborate in a real-world mindset, and to prepare them for future jobs, Nielsen said.

For example, geometry students will not simply learn about angles and calculations, but can plot a garden – which is happening at Foothill High School, said Gregory Franklin, superintendent for Tustin Unified.

The district is spending $1 million on professional development, including training before school starts. As part of TUSD Connect, 13 tech-savvy teachers have been hired as “ digital learning coaches.” They will spend the year traveling to school sites, helping other teachers use the new equipment.

“If these kids are coming in … knowing how to turn on an iPad and manipulate it, teachers need to, too,” said Brandee Ramirez, a digital learning coach who has taught first grade for 11 years at Myford Elementary School .

For this generation, navigating tablets and applications is second nature. By presenting school through familiar media, educators hope to boost engagement.

“This is where they live,” Nielsen said, about students using iPads. “They get how to communicate with these. It’s finally like school is catching up.”

In tech-forward classrooms across the district, teachers have noticed students’ reactions – they get excited holding Google Plus Hangouts for class projects, building online wiki pages and making movies.

In Ramirez’s class, her first-graders learned how to use “quick response” barcodes, which can be scanned with a mobile app to bring up website links. While studying hot air balloons, her students scanned a QR code to watch videos about how balloons are created.

“It really kind of takes your classroom and expands the boundaries. It’s not just these four walls that you’re learning in anymore,” Ramirez said.

The technology means students can have more choices in how they turn in homework, said Roland Jones, digital learning coach. Students might be able to make an online presentation, build a webpage – the list goes on.

The district is trying to change the industrial model of students just “sitting and quietly listening,” Nielsen said.

“I think the hope is … if we can pass or feed out as many new ideas as we can to help teachers develop the critical thinking skills and creativity of out students, the better,” Jones said.