This plan was created for my Professional Development and Leadership in Educational Technology course at Concordia Academy. Through this project, I needed to create an executable technology implementation plan and desired outcomes of the plan. This included defining the school size, population (students and staff) grades taught, administrative structure, geographic location, existing technologies, typical capital budget, limitations/constraints, etc., the goal of the technology plan, alternatives, and a defense of the proposed plan. This plan used the attributes about the school district I was working at for a strictly hypothetical implementation scenario.
With that being said, I believe strongly in the future of 1:1 technology in the classroom. At the time this paper was written, I believed the plan below was the best option for education. However, recent advances that have made touchscreen Chromebooks more affordable and accessible eliminates the need for two devices (one to read on and one to do work on). While two devices certainly makes the process of reading and working more intuitive without having to multitask on one screen, it is not necessary where budgets are constrained. Additionally, who knows where the future of education will be in the next decade if advances with VR technology continues?
School Technology Plan, Part 1
Imagine a world where students read their materials from their devices rather than lugging around weighty backpacks. In this scenario, students would be able to highlight text in their digital books without being fined for vandalism. While reading through materials, they could quickly search through text to find specific paragraphs for review. This type of learning would also enable teachers to piece together their own materials and course books, freeing districts of the lofty overhead expenses incurred as a direct result of publisher-controlled textbook markets. In all aspects, making the switch from print to eBook benefits key stakeholders in the educational process. It is recommended for Henry Sibley High School to gradually phase out older print materials through already existing or accelerated curriculum review schedules. Through this natural transition, open-source eBooks and custom-made resources could be created by individual departments, tested, piloted, and put into effect. By slowing down the process to include only select departments or courses each year, that would allow materials to be fully vetted prior to implementation with students. Also, teachers who pilot the program could be used to support and coach other staff members when it would be their turn for curriculum review and implementation. By all regards, the deployment of open-source eBooks would revolutionize this school district and provide students with the 21st century skills necessary to thrive, not only in an educational setting, but also in post-secondary endeavors.
Henry Sibley High School is a part of the West St. Paul -Mendota Heights-Eagan Independent School District 197 in Minnesota, serving students from Grades 9 through 12. The principal works directly below the district superintendent and is assisted by two associate principals; this will change with the addition of a third associate principal in the interim because of the distance learning implemented as a direct result from the coronavirus. Henry Sibley is also aided by an activities director who takes on administrative roles. Beneath the administration, teachers receive directives from department leads and committees. For tenured teachers, they gain supplemental assistance from peer coaches. A technology department is responsible for maintaining district technology devices for 84 members of the teaching staff. Additionally, no capital budget figures were able to be released at this time.
There are 1,400 students enrolled at the high school level. According to U.S. News, the student body is comprised of the following races: 51% white, 29% Hispanic, 9% black, 5% Asian, and approximately 6% other or multiracial students (n.d.). There is also a large number of economically disadvantaged students, with 38% qualifying for either the free (29%) or reduced (9%) lunch programs. From the same study, 51% of students are proficient in math and 62% are proficient in reading. Henry Sibley has a large number of students who speak English as a second language, qualify for special education services, or are considered minority or underserved.
The high school enforces a “bring your own device” (BYOD) program, and it is the expectation that all students use another device than their cell phones. For students without devices, parents can sign agreements for loaned school laptops, MacBooks, or Chromebooks. District technology revealed that there are approximately 400 Windows devices at the high school level. Further information concerning Apple devices and Chromebooks was not provided at that time. Again, it must be stated that every student is expected to have a personal learning device, and classes are built around this concept. Both the middle and high school in District 197 use Canvas LMS as their digital classroom. The high school instituted a policy that requires all teachers to post course material, assignments, calendars, due dates, and contact information to Canvas.
Implementation Goals and Outcomes in Light of Alternatives
The goal of this implementation would be to eliminate the unnecessary overhead costs associated with print textbooks. It would lighten the load for students carrying heavy books in their bags. And most importantly, by making the transition from expensive textbooks to open-source materials, Henry Sibley would be afforded the opportunity for its teachers to create their own materials, ensuring that each faculty member has a stake in the content being taught to students. With this ownership, the district would have the flexibility to adjust how and which information could be distributed to students, allowing for a more relevant and applicable experience for students.
For this plan to be effective, it would require full support and buy-in from the school’s teaching staff to make its implementation a reality. It would require a shared vision of teachers to develop and revise materials; this technology plan could open the door for Henry Sibley to collaborate with professionals from neighboring districts to create shared resources at substantially reduced costs to the district and its taxpayers through teacher-led curriculum writing. Ultimately, because of the careful selection of open-source eBooks, teachers could pick and choose between the most relevant chapters from books to reassemble an entirely new volume specific to each department’s needs. Because of their licensing type, open-source textbooks may be “freely used, adapted, and distributed” (University of Minnesota, n.d.). This fact allows teachers to repackage materials into relevant chunks without the fear of copyright infringement. Furthermore, where no relevant materials exist, teachers could band together to develop their own chapters or units from scratch.
One must also analyze the potential alternatives to this plan. The main alternative to open-source books is having the district stay beholden to name brand publishers. Some would argue for that path because of its convenience. Because publishers have created full curriculum sets, it is not uncommon for teachers to choose the materials that align directly with the assessments, especially when both are created by the same company for consistency’s sake (Trebisovsky, personal communication, October 3, 2019).
However, there is also another line of thinking that is backed by research. Research has consistently shown that students comprehend more when reading traditional physical media (Barshay, 2020). While the study Barshay cites indicates that readers have approximately the same reading speed between digital and print, an earlier study shows that those who read on screens tend to read slightly faster (Alexander & Singer, 2017). In either case, both studies seem to agree that there is a disruptive effect caused by screens, whether it is due to the nature of scrolling the text, the backlight of the screen, or the fact that one cannot ascertain by physical placement in a book where they are in relation to the full volume.
Between both studies, two facts stood out. Firstly, a study done by Virginia Clinton, an assistant professor of education, surmised that comprehension was impacted by a person’s overconfidence in one’s comprehension (Barshay, 2020). Both Clinton’s study and the article written by Alexander and Singer emphasize a disconnect between an individual’s perceived comprehension when reading on a screen compared with actual comprehension. In both cases, students overidentified that they remembered more by reading on a screen. Clinton argued that “people who overestimate their abilities are likely to put in less effort. The less effort a person puts into a reading passage, the less they are likely to comprehend. That’s because reading comprehension, like all learning, isn’t easy and requires work” (Barshay, 2020).
While Clinton tied effort into the equation, Alexander and Singer’s study found that there was a subgroup of undergraduate students who defied the statistics. This group actually comprehended more by reading on a screen, and the authors were keen to attribute this fact to students’ slower reading paces (2020). While these studies indicate that print appears to have the advantage over digital media, both cases highlighted strategies that could be implemented to train students to self-check for comprehension. While this technology plan for Henry Sibley aims to significantly reduce the investment in costly print formats, it does not suggest nor recommend to do away with all print books in curriculum. In fact, it is the recommendation based upon the aforementioned evidence to maintain print format books for literature classes when appropriate because of their advantages, namely that one tends to assess the timeline of a plot based upon the physical page location in larger bound works. For other unit-based classes, this fact becomes largely irrelevant. In either case, it is entirely possible for students to overcome these limitations with the proper reading strategies in place.
One further advantage of eBooks is the ability for each student to customize how he or she learns. Students can highlight text and make annotations on their digital copies—something that could not be done otherwise with print textbooks. Even more, narration tools can be combined with the text to assist struggling readers and non-native English learners.
Others might balk at the notion of utilizing eBooks because they require additional technology resources. However, school policy already dictates that all students must have a personal learning device. While it is true that eReaders are expensive, the costs associated with print textbooks are exorbitant when compared appropriately. To begin, schools do not always have the most up-to-date textbooks, largely in part because of their cost. In fact, the cost of textbooks has increased faster than medical services, new home costs, and the consumer price index—the latter of which is more than three times less than the percentage increase for the textbook industry (Zook, 2017). At the time of Zook’s article, the average cost public schools spend on textbooks annually per student was $250 per year. These costs are on-par with the cost of eReaders, except that eReaders can store numerous books on the internal memory and would only require the initial startup cost once, if the school district elected to purchase additional technology. Any additional costs would be related to teachers’ professional development with their new curriculum and would increase teachers’ effectiveness with their material.
One final note worth mentioning about the textbook industry is the limitation of media choice. Only five major textbook companies control the majority of the market; Zook draws a comparison between these companies and cartels (2017). A point of consideration would be the media control over what students are able to consume. By limiting textbooks to the oligopoly of publishers, schools effectively limit the messages students are able to hear nationwide. While it is imperative that schools provide consistent education on topics, especially of a historical nature, by being limited to only a set few publishers, schools are indirectly limiting the perspectives students are exposed to rather than allowing students to explore multiple perspectives of history on the same topic (Tuccille, 2020). This could also contribute to an unfair bias based upon a publisher’s self-interests, political affiliations, or other corporate sponsorships and lobbying outside the realm of public education.
As a matter of physical consequence, heavy backpacks “can cause severe deterioration on the lumbar part of the spine,” according to a study by Hossain and Tonima (2017). By introducing open-source textbooks, schools would effectively reduce the weight that students would need to carry on a regular basis and limit the number of supplies students would need to bring with them to class.
Measuring Progress and Responding to Results
Progress towards these goals will be measured on a timeline. The first wave of teachers being ushered into this technology plan will be supported by district curriculum and technology specialists to ensure a smooth transition. Especially for the first wave, teachers will be surveyed and asked for feedback according to a predetermined timeline with more support being provided at the beginning of the process. Feedback will allow the rollout to go smoothly and will help with teacher buy-in, as teachers will quickly realize their roles and importance in the process as well as their control over how their subjects are developed underneath their guidance instead of the limitations that textbooks provide. Teacher feedback is necessary to adapt future waves of this initiative and to support both faculty and students to the fullest degree.
Student progress will also be monitored to ensure that their performance does not suffer due to the introduction of a new medium. Additional support will be given at the onset of this technology plan to ensure that students learn strategies for comprehension and self-regulation while reading on a screen.
Regardless of whether or not additional devices are procured at the beginning or after testing the effectiveness of this plan, students may be expected to use current district technology while the first wave of curriculum writing is tested for effectiveness. As the plan is piloted, the district will have more directive as to if the program should be continued and if devices should be purchased to enhance students’ learning. However, effectiveness should not be based solely on students’ academic achievements. The other aforementioned criteria should also be taken into account: cost, curriculum control, and removing the weight and additional materials students must bring with them to school every day.
In summation, the implementation of a technology plan to introduce open-source eBooks would give teachers greater control over their subject areas, broader perspectives to student education, lessen the district’s expenditures on textbooks, improve teacher effectiveness, remove heavy textbooks, and would teach students 21st century skills for self-regulation, self-checking for comprehension, and utilizing features to find words in text. Additionally, multiple books could be stored on each device, and open-source textbooks could be combined freely from a variety of sources. It is highly recommended that Henry Sibley adopt the use of eBooks from open sources.
School Technology Plan, Part 2
This paper will examine different solutions for implementing digital textbooks in District 197, exploring a cost analysis and possible outcomes for new district technology to support this initiative. Open-source textbooks are to be compared with other viable options, including name brand publisher eBooks and having staff write their own textbooks. Features of each technology will be discussed at length, including infrastructure requirements, advantages and limitations of each, and defining the rationale behind this initiative. iPads and Android tablets will be weighed against the current district model for “Bring Your Own Device” or BYOD.
A Comparison of Textbook Choices
The goal of this initiative is to help District 197 move away from expensive textbooks and put more control and ownership of the material being taught back into the hands of licensed teachers. Eliminating the weight students must carry is also tertiary to this initiative, as outlined in the first part of this examination. One of the optimum outcomes of this technology plan is to enhance how students learn content across all disciplines and create more flexibility for teachers to own the content that is taught.
By implementing open-source curriculum, schools are able to act as vehicles for knowledge and adapt in real-time, allowing materials to be updated as needed instead of by curriculum review cycles. Content created would also stay underneath an open-source license, allowing other schools to adapt and modify materials at no-cost. Prior to beginning this initiative, District 197 should consult with other neighboring school districts within the state. By collaborating with other districts, District 197 would be alleviated of the burden of creating all content by itself. With this route, the primary question is whether the school district should decide to adopt an open-source curriculum or if it should build upon existing libraries of knowledge to create its own custom textbooks.
The first choice would be quicker for startup because the content already exists. District 197 could conceivably use whole open-source textbooks at length in place of already-existing brand published works. This would be complemented by staff development hours for teachers to prepare for and understand the format of the material. The second option would allow greater flexibility for teachers to determine and select chapters of greater relevance to their students’ learning. Content could be pulled from numerous open-source repositories and compiled into new works. Additionally, this would permit teachers to include sections previously omitted by textbook companies or newer information discovered after the publication date. Furthermore, the textbooks would not need to be in one specific format, such as PDF or EPUB. Teachers with little design experience might struggle with the imposition of recompiling books each year with software to manually insert new sections into previously compiled works. Because of this, the end product could be an organized folder of works linked together from a learning management software, school website, or other content-delivery platform to remove technology barriers from teachers who are updating content. It also allows for easier insertion of materials. The development and implementation of the two aforementioned scenarios should also be weighed against publisher textbooks in digital format.
In 2019, Pearson decided to slim down its selection of printed textbooks from the 500 it previously updated to only 100, aiming its focus at subscription-based eBook markets (Whalen, 2019). Inherently, this shift impacted the resale value of textbooks for college students. While this study is aimed at the primary through secondary levels, consequently little data could be analyzed for comparison. What could be found is that companies like Pearson began to offer eBooks for substantially less than printed books with as much as 70% savings (Pearson, n.d.). No costs could be found related to this model through Pearson’s website, though Newsweek determined that the individual cost per textbook could range from $40 to $79 with the latter of the two including “a full suite of digital learning tools” (Whalen, 2019). Trident Technical College in Charleston, South Carolina previously charged $132 for a printed textbook; with the inclusive access model, the prices for licensing the book were $59 for a seven-week course and $107 for a fourteen-week course (McKenzie, 2019).
Arthur Attwell tackled the topic of institutional licensing as it affected South African schools. In his study, it was determined that institutional licensing relies on uncertain numbers of students to predict licensing models. He also discussed at length concerns surrounding licensing structures and how materials could be used (Attwell, 2017). These studies also named pricing hikes as a reason for concern along with digitally licensed materials, especially once a school has given itself to a publisher who then holds a monopoly of its resources. In effect, schools could end up paying more in the long run because of licensing terms.
Even more troubling, Pearson’s “Inclusive Access” business model aims to limit the number of publishers used within a school, effectively limiting differing voices in education. With the “one size fits all” approach, a school district would pay a fee to offer textbooks to all of its students. The catch: the school district benefits financially by keeping more of its books through Pearson to save money. For schools that would rely on specific platforms to deliver homework to their students, there is little opportunity to work around the need for digital access. According to Nicole Allen, director of open education at the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), the manner in which subscription models are being handled at the college level “puts the institution’s financial interest at odds with academic freedom and student choices” (McKenzie, 2019).
As previously noted, schools spend an average of $250 per student each year on textbook expenditures. There is no cost associated with open-source textbooks at face-value. While there would certainly be larger costs related to the initial startup by the school district, costs would gradually decrease as updates to materials become smaller in scale. The two options that seem most viable would be to either implement an open-source curriculum or offer a blended approach of open-source and teacher-developed textbooks. In either case, teachers could customize curriculum to additionally blend learning with other repositories of information; Khan Academy and IXL are two examples of these.
For classes that see relatively little change on an annual basis, teachers might benefit more from developing their own materials and spending time to write a textbook. Teachers in this example could also pull specific chapters from various open-source materials and adapt them to fit their needs, meaning that they would not need to develop everything from scratch. Rather, they would select pieces that fit their education model and district vision to best meet the needs of their learners in respect of specific state standards and federal accountability measures. Teachers could update the material on a smaller scale annually as needed, keeping costs down for the district.
For other classes that see larger changes to teachable content, such as a class pertaining to modern history or a class dealing with the sciences, the burden of revising materials might outweigh both the overhead cost for the district as well as the convenience for the department. In this case, teachers should be given the freedom to adopt whole eBooks from open-source libraries. The advantage of this would be to receive the latest updates to the books with the least amount of effort invested in revision, granting teachers time to adapt the new content for application in the classroom rather than spending the majority of the time creating content.
Currently, District 197 pays teachers $36 per hour for summer curriculum writing. Statistically, teachers require 30-90 hours of unit building to be effective with new technologies (McKenzie, 2003). Henry Sibley High School employs 84 licensed teachers across thirteen different disciplines. Based on these datasets and extrapolating to the most expensive scenario, implementing a new curriculum could cost the district $272,160 upfront. This does not take into consideration any development for this technology at the elementary or middle school levels. At the high school alone, the district could expect to spend approximately $350,000 on textbook expenditures based upon the data provided in the first part of this plan.
This information, however, does not account for both grant writing opportunities nor the prospect of collaborating with other districts to build content in a joint effort which, in both circumstances, could lessen the financial impact to each individual district. Providing a further benefit to the school district, maintenance on the materials in subsequent years should be projected to decline in the number of hours for teacher development.
A further value to the district would be increased teacher buy-in to the initiative. Giving teachers the latitude to choose which methods work best for their classes between open-source or self-created works would establish more ownership and a greater stake in the implementation phase. In actuality, teachers would be receiving a wider range of materials to choose from and tailor fit how these materials are utilized to best serve the needs of students.
At the high school level, no changes to infrastructure would be needed to make this goal a reality. As Henry Sibley is a BYOD school, all students are expected to have a device for working that is not a phone. While some students bring their own devices, others rent school Chromebooks, MacBooks, and Windows laptops. The basic necessity for students to be able to participate in the benefits from this technology plan is that each has a working device to read PDFs and web pages. These are both low resource intensive processes that should be capable from any device. It would also be ideal for the district to push content to each student’s device so students can retrieve required course materials. However, this could also be skirted by pushing all course material to devices through learning management software for each class. As long as students connect their device to the school’s WiFi, content can be downloaded for offline and continual use without internet dependencies.
Also, foresight should be taken into future developments planned for the evolution of this initiative. Henry Sibley’s current BYOD plan was met with complaints concerning device and access equity. Additionally, the Chromebook models largely underperform their Windows and Apple counterparts. Servicing three types of devices is not ideal for consistency across the district and makes it difficult for teachers to plan for device-specific technology problems. It would be in the best interest for District 197 to additionally examine possible replacement technologies for these reasons.
The district is faced with two better alternatives for delivering content such as open-source textbooks to students: iPads or Android tablets. The school district has followed the example of other districts and has incorporated iPads into the classrooms at the primary and middle school levels. A pack of ten 32GB 7th Generation iPads costs $2,940 while purchasing the same device individually costs $299. An upgrade to 128GB iPads costs $3,940 for the bundle or $399 individually (Apple, 2020). Neither of these comparisons factors in the cost for AppleCare support, as Apple places restrictions on who can service their devices and receive parts to do the repairs, nor does it aid in expanding storage on the device should technical demands for space increase as Apple does not enable users to insert a microSD card. Lastly, Apple also limits apps that can be downloaded to the device and the ability to customize each device.
As iPads largely restrict what a district can accomplish through apps, increase the need for outside servicing, and do not allow expandable storage, Android tablets would make for fierce competition. Educational pricing is available, but rates are not publicly advertised on the Samsung website. The 32GB Samsung Galaxy Tab A comes in at $229 while its 128GB model is $329 (Samsung, n.d.). Both are still far under the price point of Apple. The Galaxy Tab A runs on an Android operating system, which is open source. This enables districts to take control of the operating system and build upon the technology as they see fit; schools could design their own apps and push them to devices, which differs from Apple’s tightly locked-down approach. Storage can also be externally expanded by up to 512GB via a microSD card.
Naturally, these would need to be supplemented with protective casings. Both tend follow similar price points from third-party vendors, making comparison between products irrelevant. However, cost for maintenance should be expected, including battery life. Again, the Galaxy Tab A outperforms in this category because one can purchase aftermarket parts and perform repairs in-house.
It would be recommended for District 197 to phase out iPads in favor of Galaxy Tabs. This would also include a plan for allowing students to retain their devices as they progress through the system, and giving students the ability to multitask between screens for reading their materials and doing their work on their BYOD device. The total district population of 5,000 students would equal a total device expenditure of around $1,145,000 if every student were to receive a device at the same time. This, however, reflects a high estimate where every grade receives full sets of devices, and it might suit the district better to begin phasing in devices for this purpose at the second or third grade level. This could also limit the number of accidents for devices belonging to the youngest students. A less aggressive option might be to target specific grade levels first and begin annual cycles to phase in technology. As the technology ages and becomes less compatible with newer requirements, students age with their devices. By the time each student reaches late middle school or high school, the use of the device should shift from interactive to functional. By then, it only needs to perform the task of displaying PDFs and other course materials. A less aggressive initial approach would also stem the cash flow from one single large expenditure to smaller incremental adjustments, especially after the first wave is piloted. Adjustments to the technology after the pilot program is to be expected. If costs were to be adjusted for an average grade-level size of approximately 384 students, the cost per year for new devices would amount to $87,936.
It would also be advisable that devices at the end of their useful lifespan could be sold. Students who wish to keep their device could pay a nominal fee while devices that are returned could be serviced and sold as replacements to students who have broken their original devices. Both plans would help the district recoup some of the costs for these aged devices at the point when the device’s resale value is prohibitive.
It is the recommendation based upon these findings that the district should proceed as follows: District 197 should adopt a technology plan which favors open-source textbooks over publisher textbooks. As a second choice, teachers should have the freedom to compose their own textbooks, either as compilations from a variety of sources or by authoring their own content. It is not advisable for this school district to pursue inclusive access-type agreements with publishers for the reasons mentioned herein. The district should also consider purchasing Galaxy tablets in lieu of iPads. Their advantages and price points far surpass the current technology model. An alternative plan for this is not recommended at this time. However, the district could elect to keep its current model for the lower grades in this instance without negatively impacting student outcomes. It is strongly recommended that District 197 would consider a plan that phases out Apple and adopts a model relying on Android. Investing in open-source textbooks would open the district to multiple perspectives in curriculum while investing in tablets would place all student content in one lightweight, easy-to-access place.
School Technology Plan, Part 3
For District 197 to begin applying the previous section’s legwork, the district will need to take several measures to ensure success. It must assess the current technology model and determine resources to be phased out in anticipation of the switch to eBooks and an open-source curriculum. Should the district opt to provide Samsung tablets per the previous recommendation, there must be a pilot program. The district must direct a staff development plan for teaching and administrative staff to ensure that all employees directly affected by this change are thoroughly trained with the new methods for curriculum delivery to students. This also means that the district will need to plan for time prior to phasing in the new technology for teaching staff to create, adapt, review, and modify all open-source materials that will be used for their classes. The school district must also formulate an adoption schedule and a replacement cycle to maintain this technology initiative. District 197 should have measures in place also reconciling with feedback from the pilot program for an efficient troubleshooting process for staff. In addition, an evaluation protocol will be established on a biannual basis to review and address concerns that arise. This paper will address these critical key points that the district needs to consider before releasing this technology initiative to students and families.
Technology to be Phased-Out
With the implementation of eBooks, there is no direct technology to be phased out to accommodate for this shift. Older textbooks and course materials that are no longer used in classrooms will need to be assessed by the director of curriculum “to determine the appropriate method for removal” (C. Drewitz, personal communication, February 26, 2020). These materials will be sold, donated to Books for Africa, or recycled.
As previously suggested, District 197 should also consider taking steps through a secondary plan to address the current device equity issue at the high school. The current model consists of three devices (Chromebook, MacBook, and Windows laptops) that do not provide a consistent nor equitable experience for students. Because students who are poor typically rent devices from the school, their parents’ income level directly correlates to which devices those students can afford to rent; these devices tend to be the less robust and more trouble-laden Chromebooks that the district offers. This move should be with the expressed intent to standardize all devices at Henry Sibley High School for both student experiences and for district repairs. The latter of these should happen in-house when it is feasible to cut down on repair times and district overhead cost.
Tertiary to this is the district’s recent move in 2020 to liquidate two of its intensive computer labs. It is of high importance to ensure that students have access to more portable devices within the building because students will have less access to previously employed resources. The district will need to address the decrease in devices as it proceeds with the implementation of open-source textbooks.
Adoption Schedule and Replacement Cycle
A few Samsung device sets will be purchased prior to the pilot program. This is to determine any additional consideration that need to be taken through a selective staff trial before fully committing to any specific device model and to see if tablet devices bring any benefit to students and the district. This will allow time for concerns to be reviewed. If there are any shortcomings in device performance or ability to complete their necessary roles, this will provide the flexibility for the district to change course and make adjustments to the technology plan.
The first year, select teachers will pilot the program. The technology plan will be put into action for the district for the second year of its cycle, making changes as necessary to accommodate for any unforeseen issues. Following the second year and a final review of staff and student experiences, the district will move into a biannual review cycle to create a consistent loop of feedback and minor revisions to how open-source books and the curriculum are meeting the needs of staff and students.
This initiative should happen simultaneously for all grade levels in the district. However, it is advisable for the district to begin phasing in devices at the upper-elementary and middle school levels. In this way, devices will begin to trickle into the high school without creating too much of a strain financially. Students in the high school would still use open-source textbooks with their current devices. This would also allow the high school to adjust to the adaptation of an open-source curriculum for its various content sections at a slower pace and more thoroughly ensure a quality education for students. Devices would still be rolled out and replaced according to the schedule outlined in earlier sections of this paper.
The district will have a more significant financial investment in its first full year of operation. The starting cost for the district in its first year after the pilot program will cost the district an estimated $272,160 for staff development for the high school alone based upon 90 hours of summer curriculum writing at $36 per hour. When combining the same datasets for the middle schools, the total investment in teacher readiness for the initiative will jump to $800, 310. Again, the district would pay a substantially higher cost upfront but would notice a decrease in overhead cost with each successive year. Staff development following the initial year would follow the same plan that District 197 has for summer curriculum writing hours; all staff would be welcome to create a plan and apply for paid hours. Because the district budgets for curriculum writing hours, there would not be a significant increase to the district’s spending in subsequent years. Teachers would follow the district’s plan for curriculum review cycles.
As previously noted, when adjusted for an average grade level size of 384 students, the district would pay $87,936 annually for new devices. This figure does not account for any protective cases for the tablets. A review of cases for the Galaxy Tab A on Amazon.com returned prices mostly between $9.99 and $19.99. When factored in with the most expensive cases, this would raise the annual cost by an additional $7,676 dollars to a total of $95,612. Devices should be purchased for Grade 3 through Grade 8 and will cost the district approximately $573,672 in its first full year following the pilot program. In successive years, new devices will be purchased for the third grade class and follow each student as he or she progresses through the district. Allowing ten teachers to pilot eBooks with tablets will cost the district approximately the same as it would cost to roll out devices to students in third grade each year. This fact could offset the amount the district would need to pay for devices when the technology plan goes into place.
Device maintenance should only cost the district approximately $20 per device plus labor for the duration of the device’s lifespan. This cost covers a one-time battery replacement after five years of continuous use and was based on average battery prices for the Galaxy Tab A on Amazon.com. No statistics were available through the district to estimate the cost of in-house device repair for hardware problems and accidental damage, but these should also be calculated into the final total. For a successful startup, the district should expect to budget about $1.5 million to cover the aforementioned costs with a little cushion for unforeseen expenses.
Staff Development Plan and Troubleshooting
The technology plan will be introduced to staff prior to its first year of testing. Teachers will be drafted to the pilot program on a volunteer basis. These teachers will submit a brief statement of why they want to be a part of the pilot. From this pool of teachers, a selection process will occur to ensure a diverse range of experience. Final decisions will be made by the district’s digital learning coaches. This will help account for both teachers who are more familiar with technology and those who are more hesitant. The goal of this is to receive feedback that fits the needs of the entire district rather than a sliver of the workforce and to anticipate shortcomings and opportunities before releasing the plan to staff.
During its first year, piloting teachers should be given two days of curriculum work time per semester. This will come from the district’s fund that is already in place for curriculum and development. Additional time should be allotted for teachers who are struggling to implement the curriculum or utilize the technology. The process will require a high-degree of flexibility to permit piloting teachers to be effective with the resources. This decision will allow teachers to make necessary changes to curriculum as challenges arise. Each step of this process will be documented and submitted to the digital coaching team for review. It must be stated that this step is not to create additional work for piloting teachers or for accountability purposes. It is imperative for piloting teachers to be transparent with where the initial model fell short, problems they experienced, and other notes of caution to address before rolling it out to the entire district. While select teachers are piloting the program that first year, all staff members will be looking at materials that could benefit them from open-sources during their collaborative team meetings. This will ease the burden and stress when teachers have to begin structuring their curriculum.
Teachers in the pilot program will meet monthly with coaches to share their experiences. Coaches will be able to see the process in action and offer guidance. A final review would need to be submitted to the digital learning coaches before the end of March. Then, the digital coaching team will take the feedback, make revisions to the plan, and present the revisions to the piloting teachers in an open listening session in mid-April. The plan would be finalized by the second week of May to be presented to faculty at each site location. For current staff and new hires during the first year, a workshop will be rolled out in May of the piloting year to introduce teachers to working with open-source textbooks and curriculum. The presentation should cover the entire process transparently. Staff at the presentation will be encouraged to give feedback on their concerns and ideas to take into consideration.
A final half-day in June would be needed to introduce staff to the curriculum adoption process in the summer. It is the recommendation that all teachers should take advantage of the paid time for this process. Staff members who were unable to use these hours in the summer would not be paid the curriculum writing stipend and would need to develop the curriculum in their own time.
Departments would meet during the summer to debrief and create an action plan of what is needed. This process will look different depending on each teacher’s sections and their respective departments. This process must be flexible as well. Some departments will require more collaboration for shared content and team teaching while others may choose to divide and conquer. In both cases, departments will be required to share the curriculum adopted, any modifications that were made, and rationales for doing so prior to the school year.
In its first year of implementation, teacher workshop days will have components specifically aligned to support teachers through this adoption process. Each of these days will have smaller breakout sessions aimed to create an understanding of how staff are managing the open-source curriculum and to tailor future sessions to each site’s needs. These sessions are to be led by digital coaches and piloting teachers with the opportunity for other, more advanced teachers in the process to step into leadership roles.
A final listening session will take place in May of the initiative’s first year of implementation with the full staff. Final changes will be made based upon feedback to streamline the process and to create a plan of action for new staff hires for future years. This plan must detail how new staff hires are introduced to the curriculum and how it has been used for education with students. Sessions would continue to be offered sporadically on staff development days and as needed.
District 197 will adhere to the following proposed evaluation model. Listening sessions will occur at all site locations to understand what concerns staff have. It is important that these listening sessions take place before any final changes are made and the initiative is launched to students. As previously noted, during its first full year of implementation sporadic listening sessions will be planned to allow for feedback throughout the process.
In addition to listening sessions, each school within the district will receive a survey to understand staff concerns during its first month, at the midway point, and a summative assessment to show staff growth, concerns, and comparison graphs from the previous sessions. While these will serve as evidence for if the model is effectively serving teaching faculty, another survey will be developed for students and family to give input. The purpose of this survey is to collect data from students and families and assess how the devices are adding a benefit to students’ education.
Test data, GPA, and student grades from previous years will also be used as comparison data to see if the first year measures up to past years. This data will help the district decide if the technology plan fostered or inhibited growth and determine which areas need to be improved upon. These datasets will help the district understand as a whole where to focus additional attention during the following school year.
Comparison to other schools.
In several cases, schools successfully made pieces of this plan work within their schools.
For several Chicago schools, the access to an Android tablet made a difference. “Across the board, access to a tablet computer significantly changed the learning environment for the 5th grade students, both in school and at home” (Nagel, 2013). Within the three schools examined in Nagel’s article make it clear that increased student access to technology reaped significant rewards, allowing students to engage more deeply in their own learning habits. Likewise, Central Unified School District in Fresno, California successfully implemented a 1:1 program with their students. Approximately 40% of their students at the time did not have internet. Their school district also gave their teachers a full year to prepare for the change (Shumski, 2014). According to the U.S Department of Education, 15,000 tablets were purchased for students and teaching residents were expected to integrate them into their lessons (2014). The principal of Riverside Secondary School said that the tablets brought an energy to the classroom and increased engagement (Canada Newswire, 2013). In several other school districts, Android tablets were successfully used to promote creativity, bolster STEM programs, and increase mobility in teaching (Canada Newswire, n.d.).
Open-source textbooks appear to have similar benefits. A study published by Virginia Clinton highlighted that the savings from going to open-source curriculum did not dilute the experience for students; from her findings, it can be concluded that the textbooks were either on-par with traditional textbooks or increased student learning outcomes (2018). From this, it can be concluded that the financial savings alone are enough to give open-source textbooks an advantage over publisher counterparts. Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation in Columbus, Indiana found that building their own digital resources aided in generating student interest, especially from students who previously complained about the textbooks being outdated and boring (Nelson, Arthur, Jensen, & Van Horn, 2011). Reliance on their library of resources allowed for greater flexibility in how information could be delivered to students. The numerous benefits of this study from 2008 to 2009 evidence how feasible this plan is for District 197, especially considering technology has progressed far beyond what was possible a decade ago. The recommendation to move to an open-source curriculum where resources are digitally accessible is the way education will be delivered; by adopting this model early, it will put District 197 ahead of the curve for when this technology becomes standard in every classroom. It must also be stated that teachers in District 197 have already taken steps towards this goal by organizing complementary resources on Canvas, the district’s learning management platform.
Moving to an open-source model would put more control in the district’s hands to own the resources that are being taught to students, significantly lessening district expenses for textbooks within its first five years of implementation. Should the district also choose to adopt Android tablets, additional benefits will be seen. It would decrease the number of heavy materials students carry on a daily basis and put all of the content in one place. These devices would last the duration of a student’s career with the district, at which time multiple options exist to either repurpose or recoup some of the costs. Another key benefit of using eBooks is that there on-screen narration can be provided for students who struggle with reading. There is also greater flexibility in content delivery.
The manner in which the district moves forward with this initiative will determine the program’s ultimate effectiveness and success. It is critical that the district holds listening sessions and provides development opportunities for staff to both hear concerns and train employees with the new technology. A bulk of the cost for this step will go towards curriculum development and structuring. Teachers will have time to compile effective resources from multiple sources to create a curriculum that meets state standards and engages their student audiences. While the initial cost of this initiative may seem prohibitive to start, the savings will begin to accumulate within several years of its implementation. The district can also expect to see larger returns for student gains once the open-source books become a mainstay of the district’s curricular vision. By moving to this model, the district is certain to lock-in an educational model that places an emphasis on twenty-first century skills and preparing students to examine texts with different perspectives to be participating members of a more informed society.
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