Walk into a Washougal School District classroom, and it isn’t unusual to see students collaborating on projects or learning new skills while using their tablets.
Like many school districts in the Clark County area, Washougal students use technology for daily class work. However, the district has taken it a step further and implemented a 1:1 tablet initiative.
The initiative is being implemented in phases. All students in fifth through 10th grade had tablets as of the beginning of the 2015 school year.
Students in third, fourth, 11th and 12th grade will receive the devices in the fall of 2016.
Kindergarten through second-grade students will receive their devices in fall 2017.
The initiative is being funded through the $700,000 per year technology levy, which expires in 2017.
iPads are used through eighth-grade, with a switch to Chromebooks at the high school level.
“We’ve been working hard on the 1:1 initiative, and all of the technology that goes with it, and gives teachers the ability to be able to present lessons wirelessly,” said Les Brown, Washougal School District technology director.
He noted that wireless infrastructure has been upgraded, with internet speeds 10 times faster than last year.
“We are upgrading our old Mac servers from 2008-10 to a virtual server infrastructure, and replacing some internal connections so everything flows smoothly and you don’t hear the stories that you hear in other high schools that rolled out the devices but didn’t do enough prep work in advance.”
In addition to increased demand on internet services, the tablet initiative also includes professional development for all teachers, as well as instructional coaching, which focuses on retooling lessons, modeling new work flows, and easing the transition to digital learning.
So far, 50 high school teachers received introductory training in May, with follow-up sessions in August. A technology symposium on Oct. 9 had more than 90 participants.
“This allows them to deliver content and instruction in their classrooms,” Brown said. “This initiative allows us to personalize learning for each student. We want their experience to be customized to what they need.”
He noted that the tablets include apps that will read to students if they are struggling, or help them with note taking. Brown explained that having options helps keep students’ attention.
“There are exciting opportunities if we can get kids engaged in the curriculum,” Brown said.
Filtering is provided for all district owned devices, including those used at home.
Access to assessment and other confidential data is limited to staff with an educational reason for looking at it. Additionally, school counselors use iSafe and Common Sense Media materials to train students on internet safety.
“There are some scary things online, and it is important to teach students, staff and parents about internet safety,” Brown said.