Wausau schools embrace technology to help kids
FOR USA TODAY NETWORK-WISCONSIN
As I hope all of you are aware, the Wausau School District’s mission is to advance student learning, achievement and success. Stakeholders from our community identified eight shared key interests for the district.
One of those key interests is: Identify, integrate and expand technology to foster adaptability and maximize learning for all.
As I mentioned in last month’s article, the District acted on that interest by providing each elementary school student an iPad. Students in sixth, ninth and 10th grades each were provided a Chromebook. This means that currently all students in grades six through 10 have a Chromebook. In the next two years, our juniors and seniors will also acquire a Chromebook which will bring a true 1:1 instructional environment to all students.
The WSD’s 1:1 learning environments will focus on 21st century skills comprised of the four big Cs: creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication. By focusing on these skills, students will be actively involved in creating evidence of their respective learning and mastery of content by explaining and describing their problem solving instead of passively answering questions. For example, in a 21st-century-skills-based 1:1 learning environment, learners will use an app or extension to record themselves reading or solving a math problem while explaining their thinking.
iPads and Chromebooks provide teachers powerful tools to meet the needs of students who don’t naturally all learn in the same manner, at the same rate and in the same way. The 1:1 instructional environment allows teachers to adjust or change their teaching to meet the different needs of all students. This is known as differentiation and is critical in ensuring the learning of all students.In 1:1 instructional environments and through the use of programs or apps, assignments can be individualized and will become harder or easier based on student answers and understanding. This is known as adaptive technology and is a powerful tool used to deliver just what a student needswhen they need it.In a 1:1 learnin g environment, students utilize iPads and Chromebooks to share their voices, visions and messages with an audience that reaches well beyond the four walls of the classroom. Students can now open a two-way dialogue directly with authors, scientists and experts through blogs, social media, websites and email. These types of connections deepen learning and engagement.The 1:1 instructional environment also allows students to develop ownership of their learning by choosing a variety of methods to display their learning, and the ability to choose personally resonates with them. Just as teachers are able to match instruction to students, students now have a greater ability to differentiate how they demonstrate learning, understanding and mastery.
Additionally, in order to live our mission, our district must prepare our students for the future that is filled with jobs that d o not yet exist, utilizing technologies that have not yet been created. All students will need to have the skills to work with technology in a creative and collaborative manner. This means learning must effectively integrate technology, so students develop thesocial and jobs skills to be successful in their lives, no matter the careers they pursue.
All children have a voice that empowers when exercised. All students crave choice and the opportunity to choose, breeds motivation and ownership in the learning process. Chromebooks and iPads are powerful and engaging learning tools helping children to find their voice and exercise their choice. Our District invites you to come and see firsthand the marvelous transformations occurring in our schools. Please contact our director of technology Jon Euting at 715-261-0500 to arrange for your journey.
Kathleen Williams is superintendent of the Wausau School District.