Eagle Update: New 1:1 program

This fall, New Ulm Public Schools will be distributing Chromebooks to all 5-12 students as part of a new 1:1 program (one student with one device). Students in our K-4 grades will have access to updated iPads for classrooms use, in large groups, or small learning centers (as they do now).

Every district that implemented a 1:1 program has asked these questions: Why are we doing this? What are the educational goals? How does it affect learner opportunities? What staff development is needed?

In contrast to many districts that moved to 1:1 programs several years ago, New Ulm has provided technological opportunities for some time. Our staff and students have been using Google-Suite for Education since 2012; collaborating on projects and assignments and using the email program to communicate. Science classes use probes during labs to report data back to computers, digital tools are used to produce art and create videos, in CTE courses – our students program engineering software and machines and much more. The devices and software tools we will be using are not mysterious–they may even be considered comfortable by many–so a number of the usual early discussion items have already been decided.

Additionally, our students have grown up surrounded by technology; whereas schools used to talk about teaching “21st century skills,” today’s high school seniors have actually grown up needing those skills as part of their daily lives. That changes the floor from which we must start in order to engage our students.

But the daily exposure kids experience has added a new question to our discussions: How do we avoid immersing the students in technology so much that they loose the human connection?

“Screen time” concerns are part of a broader social discussion, and in schools we recognize the important role we play in that conversation. We believe that devices should help facilitate learning, but they cannot be the only place where learning occurs. We need to continue to foster the personal relationships that grow between staff, students, and classmates through offline collaboration and the use of non-digital tools. We need to help students develop self-regulation habits, so they do not become addicted to digital stimuli, and to teach them how to purposefully use technology so it isn’t simply an unproductive diversion.

Technology in the classroom can provide students unprecedented autonomy over their own learning, especially when supported by thoughtful guidance from teachers and parents. We embrace that responsibility at New Ulm Public Schools.