Eye of the Tiger

Gradual tech progression leads to digital equity

%28CAM+MEDRANO%2FEYE+OF+THE+TIGER%29%0A%0AEnglish+teacher+Jamie+Handling+works+with+a+student+on+a+Chromebook+in+her+third+period+Creative+Writing+Class.+
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English teacher Jamie Handling works with a student on a Chromebook in her third period Creative Writing Class.

(CAM MEDRANO/EYE OF THE TIGER) English teacher Jamie Handling works with a student on a Chromebook in her third period Creative Writing Class.

(CAM MEDRANO/EYE OF THE TIGER) English teacher Jamie Handling works with a student on a Chromebook in her third period Creative Writing Class.

DANIELLE BENNETT

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The Digital Equity in Learning initiative projected to roll out next year comes as the culmination of a gradual evolution of technology in RJUHSD classrooms.

The progression of one-to-one Chromebooks began five years ago, when RJUHSD procured Chromebooks for all staff members, from teachers to administrators to counselors.

According to RJUHSD superintendent Ron Severson, by having a Chromebook for each staff member, the district aimed to give adults the chance to familiarize themselves with technology to increase its use and effectiveness in a classroom setting.

“The goal is that they needed to get comfortable,” Severson said. “They needed to learn how to use them, they need to have them become part of the fabric of their lives so they can become more comfortable using them in the classroom.”

The next year, RJUHSD became the pilot district for a new type of state testing for juniors, called the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. SBAC served as the first instance where students would need to take their exam electronically, calling in the need for purchasing enough Chromebooks for all juniors.

The state allotted RJUHSD a one-time grant to implement new Common Core standards and testing. With approximately $900,000 of the funding, the district purchased around 4,000 Chromebooks. The RHS campus, which had already hosted several Chromebook carts, could now increase the use of them in the classroom.

As the number of Chromebooks increased, teachers had opportunities to attend trainings such as Computer-Using Educators conferences and an Ed Tech Summit hosted at RHS each year. Within departments, professional development days provide teachers the chance to learn new strategies and online tools from each other.

English teacher Jamie Handling, from her experience attending the Ed Tech Summit and district development days, feels the trainings’ potential for facilitating growth in the classroom makes attending them worthwhile.

“If I can get one nugget of information from a full day, then I think I’ve been successful,” Handling said. “I take away new ways to deliver information and new ideas. I think it’s important that we’re always growing and learning.”

Social science teacher Carol Crabtree finds professional development days helpful in discovering ways to use technology effectively. She first went electronic with vocabulary instruction through the use of Quizlet after learning about it during a professional development day.

“I haven’t seen any drop in vocabulary test scores so I think it’s been very successful,” Crabtree said. “I’ve actually been able to teach other colleagues on campus how to use it effectively to teach vocabulary in a way that students love.”

This year, Crabtree also attended two training sessions for a new test-prep program called Albert.io, which has led her to alter her study plan for her AP Euro students.

“I’m optimistic and I think it is really [designed] for students because they seem to like the more interactive approach, so I’m hoping it will be a good change,” Crabtree said.

Spanish teacher Marcos Lomeli has found that he does not rely on Chromebooks as much in his classes due to his emphasis on becoming conversational with language.

“I didn’t use them as much because I still want to give the students an opportunity to speak [Spanish],” Lomeli said. “It’s going to depend from one department to another.”

Next school year, the development of courses such as a Next Generation Science Standards Biology course, which would require greater Chromebook use, and the need to replace the 4000 original Chromebooks left the district considering the possibility of going one-to-one.

“We’re going to have to buy a bunch of Chromebooks for the science purchase and we’re also getting ready to place 4000, so it was like let’s take a look at doing this district wide and figure out what that looks like,” Severson said.

RJUHSD began observing and learning from other schools in the Placer County area that have gone one-to-one, before ultimately determining to implement what was then called the One-to-One initiative using one-time funding received from the state.

Principal David Byrd believes the past five years with Chromebooks have prepared RHS to face any difficulties presented by the initiative.

“It’s good that we’ve been in this place for four or five years where we at least had these devices on a campus because if a student is conducting an inappropriate search right now or is off task right now somebody’s going to alert us to that,” Byrd said.

Recently, the district renamed One-to-One Digital Equity in Learning to refocus it on providing equal opportunities to students with varying levels of access to technology at home.
Byrd sees the push for digital equity as a necessary pursuit.

“We have a chance to take some students on our campus that are maybe less fortunate than others and don’t have high levels of computer access and we’re giving them a computer,” Byrd said. “That’s become a functional tool that everybody’s got to have.”

Severson believes the transition to new technology was inevitable to keep students up with a changing society.

“Thirty years ago we used to give kids a pencil because that’s what you used in college, that’s what you used in work, that’s what you used in real life,” Severson said. “Today we give them a tablet for exactly the same reason. That’s what you’re going to use in college, that’s what you’re going to use at work, that’s what you use in real life.”

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