When examining the research related to the digital conversion plan, it is clear that there is a wide range of results. Over the past ten years, many districts have rushed to buy every student a digital device and placed a lot of hope in the impact it would have on student success. This has not been the approach for the Upper Arlington City School District. Instead, we have moved carefully and thoughtfully to ensure that the digital conversion plan is not about the device but instead about providing limitless opportunities for personalized learning.
This plan is based on a thorough review of the literature. The research supports that digital conversion programs produce more engaged learners, better technology and writing skills, and cost efficiencies. For example, a study of the impact of Florida’s Leveraging Laptops Initiative indicated positive results. The study included 447 classrooms in various subject areas K-12. The study found notable increases in student attention, interest, and engagement and a decrease in the use of traditional, independent seatwork (Dawson, Cavanaugh & Rizhaupt, 2006). Other notable differences included teachers acting as coach/facilitator, high academic focus of class time, and a decline in the use of direct instruction. Ken Kay, Chief Executive Officer of EdLeader 21, co-founded the Partnership for 21st Century Skills to emphasize the importance of developing skills in critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. Hestated, “It is worth noting that technology support systems are not merely ends, but means to a greater goal—to help children develop the cognitive, academic, emotional and physical competencies they need to succeed in 21st century life.”
A recent study of 997 schools across the United States (Greaves, Hayes, Wilson, et al., 2010) identified nine factors that, if present, appear to contribute to higher levels of achievement in schools that have adopted one-to-one technology programs. The top three factors are listed below.
- Ensuring uniform integration of technology in every class.
- Providing time for teacher learning and collaboration (at least monthly).
- Using technology daily for student online collaboration and cooperative learning.
It is perhaps no coincidence that these factors mirror key predictors of effective schools and districts in general. For example, ensuring uniform integration of technology in every class implies a district with a clearly articulated, district-wide approach to instruction—a key trait of high-performing districts (Marzano & Waters, 2009). Similarly, teacher collaboration is an important school-level predictor of achievement (Marzano, 2003), and meaningful cooperative-learning experiences have been linked to higher achievement (Marzano, Pickering, & Pollock, 2001). The Upper Arlington School District is dedicated to providing a sound curriculum and standards-based grading that ensure high achievement by our students.
It is important to further emphasize the essential role of the administrators and teachers in the effective implementation of a digital conversion plan. Bebell and Kay (2010) concluded that, “It is impossible to overstate the power of individual teachers in the success or failure of 1:1 computing” (p. 47) and that “teachers nearly always control how and when students access and use technology during the school day” (p. 47). In another study conducted in Texas, the authors concluded that “committed leaders, thorough planning, teacher buy-in, preliminary professional development for teachers, and a commitment to the transformation of student learning were keys to successful implementation of technology Immersion” (Shapley et al., 2010, p. 46). The professional staff of Upper Arlington is modeling the way with the use of digital devices and is committed to the successful implementation of the plan.
The district has committed resources to the continued professional growth of our staff, which is outlined later in this report. Based on the research, the district has placed the SAMR Model at the forefront of training and instructional practices. The Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition Model, developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, helps teachers design learning experiences that integrate technology into their lessons. The SAMR Model is a means of measuring how technology is used in lessons, with a goal of increasing student engagement and achievement through lessons taught “above the line.”
To more thoroughly explain this model, the substitution level is when the teachers and students are simply using technology tools to replace more traditional tools. For example, using an electronic form in lieu of paper and pencil. Augmentation is when students are still substituting devices for more traditional measures but they are also beginning to add some basic technology functions. An example of augmentation would be using Google Docs to create and share documents across devices and with others in the classroom.
The key is for the professional staff and students to move “above the line.” In the level of modification technology is being used more effectively, not to do the same task using different tools. It becomes about transforming students learning. An example of this would be using the commenting service in Google Docs to collaborate, share feedback and develop content with others. Finally, the highest level of instruction occurs at redefinition, which means that students use technology to create new and authentic learning opportunities. It could be students connecting to a classroom across the world, creating websites that reflect their knowledge of new information, and solving real-life problems through project-based learning activities.
New York Times best-selling author Jim Collins (2001) noted in his book Good to Great that, “Technology alone never holds the key to success. However, when used right, technology is an essential driver in accelerating forward momentum” (p. 159). The Upper Arlington City School District is committed to utilizing technology to accelerate and enhance the achievement of our strategic plan goals.