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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Middle School Chromebooks, and the Surprise of Schoology

As our area is enfolded into the first major snow event of winter 2016 and we have officially crossed into the second half of the school year, it's giving me a chance to take a breath and reflect on where our district is headed.

When the timetable was moved up on our initiative and we decided to get Chromebooks into the hands of our middle schoolers now instead of in August, there was definite joy in the air!  Last week, our deployment went even more smoothly than our high school deployment a few months prior.  Although we did it in two nights instead of three, there were few hiccups and we have grown into an efficient edtech delivery system.  (One of several lessons learned from the high school deployment: have an info sheet with a bar code prepped for every student to make checkout happen at laser zapping speed.)

It's true that I spent time last year prepping teachers for the 1:1 initiative, and our Digital Learning Team has worked with the middle school staffs in the weeks leading up to the deployment....but still, I was concerned.  Would the sped up deployment schedule rattle and dampen the middle school teachers' enthusiasm and tech integration?  In short, were they ready?

The short answer is: yes, they are ready...very much so!

The long answer is, teachers all over are jumping in with both feet.  Naturally, Google Apps are a popular tool and a powerful partner with Chromebooks.  But a pleasant surprise was how many teachers are already wading into Schoology -- learning as they go, learning from their students, and learning from each other.  At both East and West Middle Schools, educators are putting their feet on the accelerator and not looking back, whether it's in setting their norms, organizing their class, or applying physics knowledge with online simulations.  And this was barely 24 hours after deployment!

But Schoology extends beyond 6-12.  Our K-5 educators are also embracing it, even when they struggle with less than ideal 1:1 device penetration or tech consistency.  Third Grade teacher Nick Cottrell shares his story in the video below.  I love how his student surprised him with a feature he hadn't used himself yet!

Technology integration and digital classroom conversion is not for the timid.  Failing is likely, fumbling is typical.  But failing forward among the safety net of other enthusiastic practitioners of the teacher arts is the key.  I am so glad to be inspired by my colleagues and am invigorated to keep up with them.