1:1 laptop roll-out begins at Harlan Independent

Published 5:00 pm Tuesday, October 22, 2019

As part of a significant technology investment across the Harlan Independent School District, network infrastructure and related classroom tools have been deployed to help students be better prepared for the workforce of tomorrow.

Recently, school leaders rolled out laptop computers for students across each school. With enough laptops for every second- through twelfth-grade student, teachers and students are equipped to tackle learning in new and exciting ways.

During the 2018-19 school year each teacher participated in technology professional development and were also issued personal laptops. This was the first stage of a two-year plan to lay the groundwork for laptops for every student in the district for the 2019-20 year.

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Investing more than $250,000 in infrastructure, training and equipment, Superintendent C.D. Morton noted that teachers and students have anxiously been waiting for this moment.

“This has been a significant undertaking for our district. We had to make sure we had the wiring and WiFi access in place to support this kind of initiative,” Morton said. “While we had a number of carts available for classroom use, the demand for access required us to look beyond scheduling carts for periodic use. Going one-to-one for each student was the next logical step.”

Harlan High School senior Wil McCarthy believes having access to files and projects at all times is a huge advantage for students, adding having a laptop and access to Google Classroom allows learning to take place anytime.

“I like that I have the ability to work on my projects anytime I want. I can do it on my schedule and I am not just limited to working during the school day. Having the laptop in class has helped me be more organized, and I can find resources easier and faster than before,” said McCarthy.

Harlan Middle School language arts teacher Amy King regularly integrates the use of student laptops and has seen positive results from the students.

King said, “Each student having their own Chromebook allows me, as a teacher, to incorporate various instructional strategies with technology on a regular basis. Instead of designating one day for technology, I can move to a more blended learning approach where technology is used more frequently and effectively.”

HMS students Cameron Reynolds and Ella Lisenbee are big fans of the new technology.

“We get to do more fun learning games like Kahoot,” Lisenbee said.

Reynolds added he likes “to use them for research if I need help. We use them for presentations using Google Slides in Science.”

In addition to hardware investments, teacher practice is evolving to better meet the needs of students across all subject areas. Utilizing advanced technologies, such as SWIVL, teachers are able to capture the “power of pause” in their instruction.

HHS English teacher Rebecca Wynn uses SWIVL hardware and software to record her lessons and uploads them to her Google Classroom so that students have the ability to rewind instruction at any time.

“This allows them to pause and re-watch anything they didn’t quite understand the first time, this is referred to as the ‘power of pause’, and helps students achieve a deeper understanding of the content,” she said.

Wynn is currently pursuing her National Boards Certification and uses SWIVL to capture a variety of interactions inside the classroom more efficiently to document student work and her teaching strategies. The SWIVL recording devices are being utilized in all schools and across various subject area.

HHS freshman Peyton Jones found the classroom videos helpful especially when studying or getting missing work. Students are able to see video of their classes rather than getting notes from friends or trying to figure out what to do on their own.

“Watching the videos of the classes I missed is very helpful, especially Mrs. Thomas’ algebra class. I can watch her teach it as many times as I need to so that I understand what to do,” Jones said.

Morton said a project this dynamic requires a great deal of collaboration and cooperation to put together from a funding perspective. Through the use of various state and federal funds, as well as outside grants, the district has been able to leverage many sources to make the project a reality for students.

Morton and district technology coordinator Frank Shope were both certified as Apple Support Specialist through the Dataseam Initiative that helped secure more than $75,000 in new iMac workstations for teachers.

Shope said without partnerships like Dataseam, funding for high-end equipment can be difficult for school districts to purchase, adding “Dataseam has been very beneficial to our students and staff over the last 15 years, we receive advanced level training and workstations to support student learning. Without their cooperative support, we would be limited on what we could offer our staff and students.”

Harlan Elementary School was completely rewired as part of a $2,000,000 renovation last year.

The district has also doubled the number of wireless access points across the campus. In addition, completely updated phone and intercom systems have been installed, as well as adding an advanced security system across the campus.

Also included in related projects, have been updated library automation systems, food service software and a host of other instructional packages. The district has plans to implement additional science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) equipment in the coming months.

Supervisor of instruction Jennifer Parsons was clear that the new tools should not be seen as a replacement for quality instruction. Emphasizing the most important element in student learning is quality instruction by an effective teacher.

“While we are really excited about the new tools we are able to offer students, we are constantly focused on quality instruction that integrates the use of technology to improve efficiency and engagement that ultimately improves student learning. Technology by itself is not a magic bullet, it must be connected to improved student outcomes for it to have real value,” Parsons said.

“Our success has been built on quality teacher-student interaction. With these new tools, we are looking to be more efficient and prepare students for college and career. Many of our dual credit and college courses require students to be fluent in navigating classes online and so providing them with the tools and skills is necessary to their success. Providing opportunities and the support to be successful go hand-in-hand. “