Choosing Digital Content for One-to-One Classrooms

Implementing a successful, effective One to One computer to learner program in schools requires addressing several important components. The hardware, the platform for launching the many activities and tools is one important component. Another key element is a culture, a learning community built on core values that respect the investment and tools and instills responsibility at a high level in the learner. Yet another important piece to our successful implementation at At nex+Gen Academy involved the learning tools, applications, resources and programs the students and teachers would be using. I’d like to share our successes and our learning experiences in our early years of implementation of One-to-One technology at nex+Gen Academy.

Critical to our success at the start, has been a learning management system that truly meets the special needs of our school’s teaching and learning system of wall to wall project and problem based learning. As partners in the New Tech Network, we have a system customized for all our schools using the Drupal open source content management platform. The system, called Echo, provides a Project Briefcase tool that teachers use to construct their lessons and provide access to the learners to resources, activities, agendas, and much more. Grades, discussions, events, collections, and even parent access is all supported. The common workspace for all teachers and students is a Google Domain embedded through the Echo servers. This nearly turnkey, customized system has proven to be invaluable as the center of use for our technology.

Another important choice that we made for many practical and innovative reasons was the purchase of a complete on-line virtual library from Cengage Learning. From the very start, our facilitators and learners, and even their brothers and sisters at home, have accessed the eBooks, pdf articles, and other resources on a regular basis in all disciplines. Key to our ongoing success of accessing these resources has been the periodic support and professional development provided by Cengage to our facilitators. We have also found ways to seamlessly integrate the links to our virtual library from within our Learning management System.

We had some struggles along the way. One challenge of a new high school like ours was that purchasing deadlines for start up on-line resources and programs came before teachers were hired and fully trained. As the Director and Principal I did my best to research, study, and plan carefully before purchasing. Although we had hits such as Adobe Creative Suites and, we had misses, at least for us, in Rosetta Stone and Skills Tutor. Not that these were bad programs, it was that the understanding and buy in and seamless integration into our project based learning culture was not a good fit with my teachers and their Projects. Fortunately, as our school became more mature and our collaborative decision making model took hold. We were able to move beyond those early investments that didn’t pay off and moved to tools that did, thanks to listening to the good ideas of my staff.

Originally published 09/20/14

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