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Madison Schools will bring technology to every student


The district is in the process of allowing schools to apply to be selected as group one. If you'd like to learn more about the tech plan visit techsvcweb.madison.k12.wi.us.

In Sandburg Elementary classroom 106, they read, they write, and they're doing it with technology.

"The iPad's a great way to enhance the learning experience. Now they have multiple ways to show us what they know," said Ashley Coblentz, 3rd grade teacher at Sandburg Elementary.

Madison Schools are not completely trading in pencils and paper, but the district has a five year plan that brings technology to all 49 Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) schools: every classroom, every student.

An information and technology plan will bring devices, labs and smart cameras to every classroom in the school district.

"You can go up here and use camera to take a picture," said Maelin Her, a third grade student at Sandburg Elementary, as she uses an app called Educreations.

The program Maelin is using to solve a math problem won't let her finish, unless she records her voice, and explains her work.

"I'll have three pies right here. One, two, three. Then you can cross it off," Her says as she works out a math problem on the screen.

She then shows us how it won't let her finish until she records her voice.

"I could press done, and are you sure? If you leave now, your work so far will be lost," said Her.

What she learns from the program runs deeper than being tech-savvy.

"...A skill that transfers in their education. It transfers in their community and it transfers into their jobs and their careers in the future. So, we really have a big focus on being able to explain and justify your thinking," said Rhiannon Leaver, a Sandburg Elementary teacher.

Sandburg applied for grants and bought iPads on their own. Now, they're a model for the district's tech plan.

"Technology brings a level of excitement. We've seen improvements in attendance and reduction in our behavioral referrals. Kids are excited to come to school," said Brett Wilfrid, the Sandburg Elementary Principal.

The district believes the first two years can be financed with different reserve funds. In future years, MMSD may need a referendum to cover costs.

For the plan, each classroom will have an interactive projection device, white board, document camera, speakers, and microphone. In elementary schools, library and media centers will be equipped to allow a complete virtual learning environment. The same will be done at computer labs in middle and high schools.

Kindergarten and first grade will have access to tablets, but they will share them. Students in grades two through five will all be provided a tablet. At grade three, they'll add a keyboard to their device. Students in grades six through 12 will receive laptops.

They've divided schools into four groups to receive technology in different phases. They'll prepare the school, then implement technology, and monitor what works. In the 2015 - 2016 school year, group one will be the first to receive new technology. The district wants to apply what they've learned from the first phase, to groups two, three and four.

One of the highlights of the tech plan is that almost every student will have a device available to them when ever they need it. The aim is to make the experience less about the technology and more about the learning.

"We're trying to avoid a situation where the use of technology is the event," said Andrew Statz, a MMSD Chief information Officer.

Right now, some classrooms with access to devices only have a small time slot to work with the technology. It makes the item more novel, and less of a learning tool.

Sandburg was able to get past that this year. in some classrooms each student has their own device.

"I'm just recording here. Recording, recording, then I save it," said Juan Cortez, a third grade student at Sandburg Elementary, as he showed us how he made a video project.

All the kids may seem well versed in technology, but it's not about the buttons they're pressing. Like Maelin's math problem or Juan's video, a tablet guides the learning goals set by the school better than a pencil and paper could.

"We're using technology in a really meaningful way that promotes creation and collaboration, and kids aren't sitting there just mindlessly playing a game or staring at a screen all day," said Coblentz.

At Sandburg, it's made learning better in ways you can't always measure with numbers.

"It brings a level of joy to the classroom that simply wasn't there before we had things like video, recording technology and a lot of the other applications... they're things that are hard to measure, but they're things that as a person, so you know, they're things that we value," said Wilfrid.

And Madison Schools believes the value won't just be a common denominator on a screen, but overall --taking learning to it's truest form.


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