Seamless integration: A team approach to technology
Howard-Winneshiek Community School District is known for its technology integration and bold educational goals. Named a District of Distinction by District Administration magazine, Howard-Winneshiek serves 1100 students and stretches over 426 square miles in rural, northeast Iowa. Their 1:1 computing program is part of the #2020HowardWinn initiative to transform their education system by the year 2020 to focus on student passions and personalized learning.
Eleven educators from Howard-Winneshiek Community School District, including teacher librarian Denise Shekleton, traveled to the University of Northern Iowa on February 12 to share how they use technology to develop students’ strengths and creativity. District superintendent John Carver also participated via Skype in the presentation to UNI faculty and students. When introducing the panel, Carver said, “They are the template of what 21st century teachers need to look like."
A participant in the US Department of Education’s Future Ready initiative, Howard-Winneshiek is in its third year as a 1:1 district. Students in grades K-6 use iPads, while students in grades 7-12 use MacBook Airs. For the teachers at Howard-Winneshiek, technology use is not simply a substitution; rather, technology allows students to do things that would not be possible without them. To determine which tools to use, the district follows the SAMR model (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition). Substitution is the stage of technology integration where the digital tool is a direct replacement for another tool (often paper and pencil) with no functional change. Augmentation is when the technology adds a benefit of some sort to the task. Modification is the stage where technology redesigns the task. Redefinition is the point where the task would not have been possible without the use of digital tools.
The panel, which included PK-6 teachers, shared examples of apps and other digital tools they use in the classroom on a daily basis, including tools that are good for formative and summative assessment, such as Today’s Meet, Padlet and Kahoot. “What I found most remarkable about these teachers is how natural technology integration seemed to them. They weren’t focused on individual tools or on technology for its own sake. Instead, technology was seamlessly ingrained in how they think and what they do,” said Joan Bessman Taylor, an associate professor of School Library Studies at UNI.
Taylor also noted the high level of collaboration and transparency between teachers of different grade levels. When it comes to effectively integrating technology into the classroom, principal Sara Grimm explained, “It’s really important that you give your teachers time for collaboration.” Teachers at Howard-Winneshiek are given common planning time, which is critical for the kinds of teaching and learning that occur in school. Grimm added, “Professional development at Howard-Winneshiek is happening all the time, daily.”
The classroom teachers frequently referred to their teacher librarian Denise Shekleton and the help she provides for them and their students. Shekleton, a UNI School Library Studies graduate, discussed the importance of teaching digital citizenship to elementary students. She also noted that students come to school thinking technology is a toy, but her job is to help them understand that technology is a great learning tool.
Shekleton was one of nine UNI alumni on the panel. As Carver explained in a later conversation, the teacher librarian is key to providing the framework and support necessary for technology integration and innovation.
Beyond Google: Teaching research in a 1:1 high school
When honors history students at Grinnell High School began their research for a Civil Rights Symposium, teacher librarian Chelsey Kolpin helped them get off to a good start. The students had access to a variety of information through their one-to-one laptops and could even use the Grinnell College library. But to maximize their time and ensure they were finding accurate information, they needed some direction. As social studies teacher Dan Covino explained, “Most students with little or no research experience don't know where to begin and often resort to Google searches for lack of alternatives.” Read more.
Leveling the digital playing field
A few years ago teacher librarian Deb Temperly noticed significant discrepancies in the technology skills of her students at Bettendorf Middle School. Although her school does not have a one-to-one laptop program, students were expected to conduct online research and complete digital projects with minimal instruction. Not all of the 1,100 plus students had the skills to do so. Temperly and classroom teacher Connie Jeschke addressed these issues in a presentation at the Iowa Technology and Education Connection (ITEC) Conference. Read more.
To help students develop digital literacy skills and evaluate online sources, Dr. Karla Krueger has developed the ABCD model. The model, which stands for Authority, Bias, Coverage, and Date, offers a tool for developing and practicing the critical skill of evaluating online information. Karla Krueger, an assistant professor of School Library Studies at University of Northern Iowa, described the model in an article titled “Evaluating Information with ABCD (Authority, Bias, Coverage, and Date)” and published in School Library Monthly in September/October 2013. The article includes an introductory handout for upper elementary and middle school students as well as a more advanced handout for middle school and high school. Read more.