At a forum held Friday afternoon, several hundred parents, teachers and residents learned about technological advances in San Ramon Valley classrooms. The five-hour event featured several breakout groups, discussions by Superintendent Steven Enoch and demonstrations of 20 iPad apps regularly used by students.
Students are hungry to learn and create and know where to access the tools to do so, Enoch said in his opening presentation. Because these children have grown up with the internet, the word "technology" is not in their vocabulary and they will not tolerate unchanged schools.
"Our challenge is how are we going to definite excellence in this district," Enoch said, adding that SRVUSD was eager and excited to meet the challenges of new technology.
But San Ramon Valley Unified is already on its way to a sophisticated learning environment. Several schools have 2.0 classrooms -- those featuring reliable wireless bandwidth, "smart" whiteboards, iPads or laptops, microphones or response clickers -- in specific grade levels or have one-to-one tablet or computer ratios. Administrators at Quail Run Elementary School in San Ramon have implemented a one-to-one laptop program for fifth graders over a three-year period and have leased a cart of 20 iPads.
"Our world is changing and so is our work, we don't know what the next five years will bring but what we do know is…that we can adapt and adjust to best prepare students for their successful futures," said Quail Run Principal Carol Loflin. "Since we started this work our API score has gone up over 70 points."
The school also has five special day classes whose students have access to iPads throughout the day. The tablet technology is intuitive, motivating and easy to access for special needs students, Loflin noted, and the enthusiasm has been contagious. In January alone, SRVUSD has seen 850 iPad uses.
At Creekside Elementary in Danville, teacher Kristen Berg said her first grader students are excited to use Toontastic, an iPad application that allows users to create an animated story using music and voice.
"The kids love it and I love when they have to work together and collaborate," she said.
During a breakout session on changes in a 2.0 classroom, Windemere Ranch core teacher Jeffrey Osborn discussed the advantages and disadvantages of using new technology in his middle school classroom. In his "flipped" class (one where Osborn records lectures early then discusses them after students watch on their own time), students use Google Earth for math problems, add information to wikis and generally do more collaborative work.
"Teachers are no longer the storehouse of knowledge…. I want to give students the freedom to learn at home," Osborn said, adding that he finished his curriculum a month early by recording lectures ahead of time. "There are so many lessons going on with this collaboration, it's easier to share information. The real value is collaboration and teamwork and digging deeper into the project."
Although technological malfunction can be frustrating, and learning the new technology may be time consuming, Osborn said it was necessary to his students' growth.
"Kids are no longer getting information out of a drinking fountain, they're getting it out of a firehouse," he said.
While technology changes at a rapid pace, and the school district is currently seeking grants and a possible facilities bond to improve wireless bandwidth, Osborn said he isn't concerned with planned obsolescence.
"I don't want to look into the future at the iPad 6, I'm not going to play the waiting game to make sure all the apps are there. I want to improve education now," he said. "I anticipate parent help in purchasing new equipment when the time comes."
All of these changes are part of the Board of Education approved three-year plan to support students and staff with a one-to-one wireless technology ratio. The first phase would have elementary and middle schools commit to a one-to-one iPad ratio in fifth grade or a selected grade level/specific content level, respectively. High schools will use the 2012-13 school year for review of digital freshman textbook options and training.
"Every phase includes professional development, including summer institutes for teachers and an iPad or comparable device provided for all teachers at K-8 schools," said Marie Morgan, director of instruction and staff development for the district.
Phase two would expand the program to additional elementary or middle school grades as well as begin digital textbook instruction in high schools. While the district would provide iPads for students, Morgan said teachers would lean toward a "bring your own device" ideology. Phase three, in the 2014-15 school year, would see an expansion of the one-to-one program to all grades.
Morgan said the district expects instructional materials to cost approximately $200,000, but can support up to $4.4 million. Participating schools could see a $25 -$35 donation per student (regardless of whether their class is currently using the new technology), $5 of which would go back to a central pot to form an oversight or steering committee. The committee of parents will help guide and review the technology and make an annual report to the Board of Education.
"This energy is widespread across this district because I think we have many people ready to do this tomorrow," Morgan said.
Still, San Ramon Valley Unified is not unaware of the challenges associated with such funding. Superintendent Enoch noted a lack of understanding, purpose and vision as well as a "college or bust" versus "preparing children for success in the 21st century" mentality among parents as great barriers to change. Inadequate or outdated funding allocation also needs to be looked into, he said.
"The torch is lit and being carried by digital natives. The teachers who want to teach in this district…will not respect having any sort of digital divide between their lives and the work we expect them do to," Enoch continued. "Kids will lose their patience for living two lives."
Those interested in learning more about iPad apps used by SRVUSD schools can visit http://sg.sg.srvusdtech.