McKINNEY — In January 2015, McKinney ISD will take a strategic step forward in its mission to prepare all students for college and career success by putting a new MacBook Air laptop in the hands of every MISD freshman.

It’s the first step in the District’s new “One 2 the World” instructional initiative that will roll out from 2014-2018. Once fully implemented, the program will provide every high schooler with personal access to a computer by issuing a laptop to each of those students in much the same way that textbooks have traditionally been distributed – but with vastly greater, and more flexible, educational potential.

The District has researched the program for two years and will fund it through technology funds approved by voters during the 2011 McKinney ISD Bond Election. In addition to the instructional benefits the program brings, it will also help the District reduce its reliance on campus computer labs and traditional textbooks in lieu of the new devices and resources such as digital textbooks and online curriculum and software.

The name “One 2 the World,” which plays off of the often invoked “1:1” technology concept, reflects a shift in thinking, a shift away from simply connecting one student to one device and toward the concept of connecting one student to the world.

“It’s not about the device,” said MISD Director of Instructional Technology Lara Lindsey. “It’s about the learning.”

The ultimate goal of One 2 the World is not to simply upgrade to a 21st century version of pencil and paper but to truly integrate technology into classroom teaching and learning so that MISD graduates become fluent in the use of technology to communicate, collaborate and problem-solve – skills that are vital for success in our increasingly connected world.

“One 2 the World is going to give teachers opportunities to really dive deep using technology as a tool to connect kids to the world and start creating problem-solvers,” said Lindsey.

One hindrance to such integration of technology has consistently been access. Computer labs outfitted with the latest technology are great resources, but during a 45-50 minute class, the logistics can be challenging for a teacher.

“In order to have students use technology, they’ve had to pack up, walk down to the computer lab and everybody log on,” said Lindsey. “So, there hasn’t really been the in-depth integration of technology that we want because there is just not the time in the day unless they schedule it. And, then it becomes something on the side instead of an integrated piece of the curriculum.

“That’s really the big deal; we want students to become innovative problem-solvers. We know that kids live in a digital world, and when they come to school, they shouldn’t have to disconnect from the world they live in. We should be teaching them in the world they live in,” said Lindsey.

Teachers have been moving toward that by using Twitter to connect students to experts in particular areas of study. One high school class was able to dialogue with an expert on Shakespeare in Great Britain, while students at the elementary level have connected with scientists to answer research questions and have collaborated with students from other countries to complete a variety of projects.

Putting computers in the hands of high school students gives them and their teachers a tool to take what they have already begun implementing to a deeper and broader level.

And while many students do have access to computers outside of the classroom, standardizing the devices used by all students is important.

“Standardizing it gives teachers the flexibility to give homework to everyone in the class, and she knows that they have that device that will support whatever it is she needs them to do. The standardization makes it more seamless,” said Lindsey.

How Did We Get Here?

The District spent nearly two years exploring the concept of One 2 the World – what device to use, what it would cost and what would make it successful.

 

They talked to those who have already implemented similar programs.

“We have visited other districts,” said Lindsey. “We’ve gone to McAllen and Lewisville and Clear Creek. We’ve talked on the phone. We’ve been to conferences. We spent a lot of time trying to figure out what works, what doesn’t work, what the best model looks like.”

They talked to students.

MISD Chief Information Officer David Spann offered, “We put out a proposal with the specifications we wanted, and then we received one of the devices of everything that was in that proposal. I met with students at all five middle schools, around 10-12 students at each school, and had them all look at the devices. We heard their feedback and said, ‘Tell us which one would best help you do your schoolwork. And, they selected the MacBook.”

“We did the same process with teachers and administrators,” added Spann.

Of all the options, the MacBook seemed to provide the most seamless integration with project-based learning activities that students were currently engaged with using Macs at the middle school level.

The MacBook also provides greater flexibility in the range of applications that it can support. For those who need Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other Microsoft Office programs, the Mac can run them.

Consideration of quality played a factor in the decision as well. “When we looked at our help desk tickets, we had about 3,300 for Windows PC’s and about 600 for all of our iOS devices. And we’re at about a 50/50 split now [in the number of PC and iOS devices in the District],” said Spann. He added that, in his experience, Macs seem to wear better over time. “Those were strong reasons why we chose what we chose,” he said.

Purchase of the computers will cost the District approximately $1.6 million each year for the next four years until all high school students have been supplied with a computer. Technology funds approved by voters in the 2011 McKinney ISD Bond Election will fund the initiative.

Making it all work will take planning. “We found that in the districts that failed, they failed because they didn’t train teachers on how to integrate the technology,” said Lindsey.

But, Apple will be providing substantial training. “They’re going to be here during the process,” explained Spann. “They’re going to work with us and work with our teachers on helping them learn how to teach with this device. That’s one of the strengths that Apple brings.”

What all of this means is greater opportunities for our students to become creative, critical thinkers who are technologically literate, globally aware, continuous learners.

As one eighth grade student gazed at the array of devices under consideration for One 2 the World, she looked at David Spann, amazed at the decision that she was being asked to weigh in on. “I’ve never had my own computer before,” she said.

Well, that is soon going to change.

For additional information on McKinney ISD, contact Shane Mauldin, MISD Communications Coordinator, at 469-302-4007 or smauldin@mckinneyisd.net.

 

About McKinney ISD

One of the fastest growing school districts in Texas, the McKinney Independent School District currently enrolls more than 24,750 students in 20 elementary schools, five middle schools, three high schools, four alternative schools and one early childhood education school. The mission of McKinney ISD, the champion for progressive learning throughout the diverse McKinney community, is to inspire and equip all students to explore, develop and express their unique potential as innovators, critical thinkers and collaborators through challenging, engaging and diverse learning experiences in vital partnership with the community. Visit the district's website at mckinneyisd.net.