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Lifelong Learning

One-to-one technology initiative expanded to grades 5-8

June 28, 2018

With the expansion of the district’s one-to-one technology initiative, Horizon Middle School students in grades 5-8 are increasingly engaged in creative, authentic learning.

In 2016-17 Moorhead Area Public Schools implemented a one-to-one computing environment for all students in grades 6-8. The opening of Horizon Middle School West Campus for grades 5-6 for the 2017-18 school year led to expansion of the one-to-one initiative to grade 5.

In science, sixth-grade teacher Christy Leier had students collect data from their straw rocket launch and enter it into a spreadsheet.

“One of the most important benefits to the one-to-one initiative is the ability to use the technology in an authentic way,” Leier said. “Data from each science class was reviewed, and students generated excellent questions about the data that seemed ‘too different.’ We had a great discussion about straw rocket variables, and students proposed possible explanations for the data and suggestions for improving our investigation. This is how science works.”

Fifth-grade teacher Amber Arndt incorporated more project-based learning through the use of one-to-one devices.

“My students are able to explore more and take the projects further than I thought they would,” she said. “For example, my science classes created wiki sites about natural resources used within the United States. Students viewed overviews of nine energy resources before selecting the resource that interested them the most. They conducted research and created a wiki site using a rubric. Students viewed each other’s sites and gathered information to help them determine which energy source would be the best to use. The classes then had a debate over which energy source should be used, using information from their own research and each other’s wiki sites to support their reasoning.”

The move to a one-to-one student-computing environment at Horizon Middle School was driven by the need to:

  • Increase individualized learning experiences for each student,
  • Enhance engagement with the 4Cs of critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity,
  • Provide a platform that allows anytime, anywhere learning opportunities, and
  • Enable assistive technology to support all learners.

Fifth-grade teacher Jayme Krsnak appreciates how students are able to practice their writing with the one-to-one initiative.

“I have taught fourth and fifth graders for the past 29 years, and I have never seen so much enthusiasm for writing as I have seen in the last three years,” she said. “Students draft, revise, and edit their works on their Chromebooks with ease. They are free to create and use their imaginations in a way that they have never had access to before.”

Increased student engagement and collaboration were common themes from the one-to-one technology pilot program conducted during the 2015-16 school year. The pilot program allowed the district to examine the financial feasibility and instructional impact of a school-owned one-to-one student-computing environment. Teachers who were part of the pilot noted advantages such as individualized learning opportunities, increased engagement in learning, opportunities for discussion boards, increased opportunities for collaboration on assignments, and increased writing.

According to Leier, the Chromebooks played an essential role in her students’ skimmer engineering project. A skimmer is a cardboard structure that when put together correctly and with care, will “skim” along the floor when launched by a rubber band.

“From watching how-to videos to taking photographs and writing self-reflections of their work, students used their Chromebooks to document each step of the engineering design process,” Leier said. “The Chromebook became an electronic engineering notebook. An added benefit was that students could take their Chromebooks home and share their skimmer projects with their parents, who were asked to give feedback about the project.”

For a book trailer project, Arndt collaborated with the Horizon West media specialist to create a unit and co-teach several lessons, which included book trailer elements, storyboard writing, and using different technology apps.

“When the book trailers were completed, the second-grade team at Dorothy Dodds Elementary welcomed my students into their classrooms to present their book trailers and to read or do an activity related to the book from their book trailer,” Arndt said. “It was an amazing experience for my fifth graders as well as the second graders.”

Arndt said a major impact the one-to-one implementation has had on her students’ learning and her instruction is the ability to assess online and provide instant feedback.

“I have been able to create assessments online, which allows my students to see their scores right away along with the correct answers,” she said. “The one-to-one implementation has also allowed students to collaborate more with each other, whether it’s doing projects together or providing each other with feedback.”

Cost for the initiative was covered by reallocating curriculum resource adoption and technology funds. A rent-to-own insurance option for parents/guardians covers potential damage to the device and applies toward its purchase. Students are able to purchase their device at the end of grade 8, which fits with the district’s “bring your own device” model at the high school level.

Photo: Using their Chromebooks, Horizon West students present the book trailers they created about their selected books to Dorothy Dodds Elementary students.

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