Building a Community for One-to-One

So much is written these days and available online about 1 to 1 computing. For example, a recent Education Week Spotlight provides a variety of articles on the subject from the 30,000 ft level for School Districts and some very good tips of smart use in the classroom. However, an important perspective to consider for a successful 1 to 1 computer implementation is a school wide look and examination of the entire learning community. In my Blog, I will share the lessons learned and experiences from a high school principal position starting the fifth year of a 1 to 1 computer environment.

How the first 1 to 1 public High School in New Mexico originated. nex+Gen Academy is a school of choice in the Albuquerque Public Schools, one of the 30 largest school districts in the US. In the Fall of 2008 business and community leaders led District Leadership on a visit to a successful small school and a school within a school in North Dallas, member schools of the New Tech Network. Representatives from Sandia National Labs, Intel Corp, the NM Business Roundtable, the Albuquerque Economic Forum, and the Hispano Chamber of Commerce were pleased to see what they were looking for: smart use of technology with students able to access computers and the internet at any time. What provided the evidence that led to commitment to building a New Tech School in Albuquerque was the interconnection of smart use of technology with a project based learning approach and a culture that promotes core values of trust, respect, and responsibility. The results of this model observed in North Dallas were high levels of student engagement and growth along several measures beyond standardized test scores.

Soon after their return, agreements were made: the APS Superintendent committed to allocating capital funds to design and build a new small school for 400 students. Intel Corp offered funding to complete the District’s start-up technology funding for new schools to create a 1 to 1 computer program, and Sandia National Labs agreed to pay the school development partnership fees to the New Tech Network to help with the design and support the implementation of the innovative learning environment.

Making technology decisions that would impact four years of learning. As the founding Principal (New Tech calls us Director) of nex+Gen Academy, I chose to focus not just on a technology master plan, but a full School Project Development and Implementation Plan. The Technology Plan would be connected to the professional culture and that meant working with the local teachers union. Another key was to connect the design of our new building to our technology decisions through our architect. Working closely with the New Tech School Development Coach and accessing a library of tools and resources from the Network would be critical to our success. Bringing plans from these areas together into a master plan for design in an Advisory Group, comprised of the original partners and other key voices in our community, was significant to a successful opening of school in August 2010.

The watershed event that put our Technology Plan on solid footing was a Tech Summit in January of 2010. Present at this four hour meeting were an Intel Enterprise Engineer and director of Education Outreach, representatives from Promethean, Oracle, Adobe, New Tech, and the local Apple and Intel platform contracted companies. Also in attendance were representative from several District departments that rarely met together on a project design team like this one: Hardware, Networking, and Instructional Support. Bringing all of these folks to the table resulted in a solid plan that would meet our ultimate need: an innovative learning environment that would best prepare learners for college and career.

Four Years later, nex+Gen’s first graduating class of learners that began as freshmen in August 2010 proved they were well prepared for college and career. They all met the state requirements for testing. All were accepted to 2 and 4 year colleges. 95% successfully completed at least one dual credit college class. Three-fourths completed a 40-hour mentorship in a career field of interest. All successfully completed and presented to the community a year long personal inquiry senior project under supervision and support of a mentor/advisor. And, yes, their test scores grew from matching the District average as 8th graders to growing 20 points higher than their peers in the District by the time they were juniors.

Originally published 06/24/14