One-to-one program expands to Austin High School

Published 9:09 am Wednesday, October 28, 2015

By Ryan Mayers

Austin Public Schools Technology Integration Specialist

When I.J. Holton Intermediate School opened in 2013, students were issued a laptop as part of a one-to-one program at the school. Last year, the program was extended to students at Ellis Middle School.

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“What we realized is that the students coming to the high school from this year forward will have been around laptops for several years, and we need to have something in place to support them,” Amy Thuesen, Austin High School’s technology integrationist, said.

And so last year, a committee of faculty and leadership at AHS began exploring a Bring Your Own Device initiative (BYOD).

“Essentially, we were looking into the idea of encouraging students to bring devices of their own to use in the classroom,” Thuesen said.

What the committee learned, however, steered them onto a different course.

Ryan Mayers, Austin Public Schools Technology Integration Specialist

Ryan Mayers, Austin Public Schools Technology Integration Specialist

“We found that there were assumptions being made,” Thuesen said. “Sometimes we think that all students have cell phones or tablets, but that’s just not the case. There’s plenty of reasons why a student might not have the necessary technology to support BYOD.”

So the committee began looking at a one-to-one program for the high school.

“Our goal with this program is to provide a continuity of devices and equity so all students have the opportunity to learn effectively in a technology infused classroom,” Thuesen said.

The long-term goal for technology integration at the high school revolves around effective utilization of the technological tools being provided to students. “Realistically, a successful implementation would be one in which the technology blends seamlessly into the classroom,” Thuesen said. “When students treat their laptop like any other tool, like a book or a pencil, then that’s success.”

In recent years, technology in education has become increasingly important, a fact which heavily informed the original one-to-one program at I.J. Holton.

“Our students will be leaving Austin and heading into an increasingly technological future,” Thuesen said. “If we don’t make every effort to teach them not just how to use the technology, but how to use it effectively, then we’re failing them. It’s our responsibility to provide students with the opportunity to learn those 21st century skills.”

Since the program is in the beginning stages, teachers are being encouraged to explore opportunities for using technology in the classroom.

“We’re telling the teachers to think of this as a ‘beta’ year,” Thuesen said. “We’re not expecting perfection, but we are trying to learn from what we’ve tried. That way, when we try again, we have a better handle on what works and what doesn’t.”

For Thuesen, the importance of technology in the classroom lies in the opportunities it provides.

“We all know how important things like collaboration and communication are in the learning process,” she said. “And if we can effectively utilize technology in the classroom, whether through one-to-one or BYOD, then we can open up a whole new universe of possibilities for our students.”