Personalizing Learning with Chromebooks

The 1TWO1 initiative at Richland County School District Two in South Carolina harnesses Chromebooks to personalize learning, make learning authentic and foster collaboration.

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1TWO1 in Richland County School District Two
With almost 50 percent of families in this 27,000-student district qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch, equity of access was an important driver for going one-to-one in South Carolina’s Richland County School District Two. The district also wanted to see an increase in student engagement and learning, including the development of 21st-century skills – Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Creativity.

District Needs
From its first one-to-one classroom in 2000, Richland Two has approached technology integration in a thoughtful, well-organized manner, expanding slowly and using what it learns to inform the next iteration.

Today, grades 3 through 12 are 1TWO1. Students at the award- winning district collaborate on problem- and project-based activities to develop the skills to prepare them for a future their teachers can only imagine. “1TWO1 is not just a matter of putting computers in schools — it is about making a difference in learning,” says Donna Teuber, Richland Two’s Innovative Program Designer. “We believe technology has a particular value in personalizing learning, making learning authentic, and fostering collaboration.”

Only after coming up with its goals did the committee talk about devices. They interviewed teachers who had done 1TWO1 pilots, gathered feedback from the technology staff on battery life and other issues, and used what they learned to bring in a handful of devices. They invited teams from every school to look at the devices, see how they rated, and ask questions. Nearly everyone chose Chromebooks.

Solution Approach
The district found hundreds of reasons for selecting Chromebooks. “For starters,” says Senior System Engineer Tommy Carter, “most of our applications are web-based. Even with a traditional laptop, students spend most of their time in a web browser. With options as low as $250 per unit, most Chromebooks are an affordable choice and far more productive than consumer-oriented tablets.”

Chromebooks let users boot up and log in quickly. They are self-maintaining and end-user resettable since there is no local personality or data to worry about. Users can move from one device to another nearly instantly. Best of all, “the IT staff doesn’t have to image the units,” says Carter. “It’s a true, zero touch deployment.”

Carter has an equally long list of reasons for choosing Intel®-based models. The district sees the devices as offering a powerful end-user experience, and the likelihood of long life as performance demands increase.

“Intel is the trusted partner of choice with the companies that produce the products that we want,” says Carter. For phase 1 of the district’s rollout, they went 1TWO1 in grades 5 and 6 and put Chromebook carts into one-third of the classes at the high schools. They continued, slowly, to add grades and schools, with the entire process taking one-and-a-half years. “The phased approach worked well for us,” says Teuber. “If you roll out to everyone at once you have to do staff development really quickly and teachers are thrown in without having time to ease into it.”

Results That Matter
With the rollout completed in the fall of 2013, there are now 22,500 Chromebooks in use by Richland Two teachers and students. Already, the district has seen positive results.

“We compared non-1TWO1 middle school students with 1TWO1 [middle schoolers] and have seen a significant increase in engagement as measured by persistence, future aspirations, dedication, study habits, and interest in learning,” says Teuber.

Additional data gathered through surveys, classroom observations, and focus groups found that:

  • 88.6% of teachers say classroom management has been easier or the same as before.
  • 65% of classes were using the devices during unannounced observations, with no infrastructure issues.
  • Teachers have expressed a high level of satisfaction with the professional development offered by their schools and are asking for more personalized options.
  •  Richland Two students who took Learning.com’s 21st Century Skills Assessment scored above the global average.

Not too surprisingly, Richland Two has received a number of honors over the years, including selection as a Project RED Signature District, part of Digital Promise’s League of Innovative Schools, and a winner of AASA’s President’s Award for Excellence in Technology.

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