Equitable Access to Tech @ Ithaca City Schools
At the start of the 2015 school year, 4,000 Ithaca City Schools students were given new Chromebooks running Google Apps for Education software as part of the district's 1:1 Chromebook Program. The mission of the 1:1 Chromebook Program is to provide equitable access to digital educational resources for all learners. This transition will allow students and teachers to engage in transformative uses of technology while enhancing student collaboration, communication and creativity. 21st Century learners have transitioned from consumers of information to creative producers and owners of knowledge, and this program prepares students for a globally interconnected and evolving world that experiences rapidly changing technological advancements. This program will help fulfill the mission and vision of the district to engage, educate, and empower all learners.
What Does Equitable Access to Tech Look Like in the Classroom?
Brian VanGorder, Fifth Grade Teacher at Caroline Elementary School, was the Central New York Regional Information Center's Featured Teacher in January, 2016. His students directly benefit from technology integration because he neatly fuses the classroom learning with the technological tools available in his school. A glimpse into Mr. VanGorder’s classroom is to see a diverse display of student engagement. Students work through choice and self-direction. The Chromebooks in Mr. VanGorder’s classroom allow his students to all operate off a central website, www.mr-vango.com, which he created and maintains throughout the school year. For each subject and unit, he creates detailed web pages that differentiate the instruction for the students as they access content. For example, as his students read a novel, each chapter has a dedicated page with read-along YouTube clips, vocabulary supplements in Google Slides, writing prompts with Google Docs, and embedded and detailed lesson objectives and guidelines. All students in his classroom maintain a Weebly digital portfolio where they store and reflect on the classroom work in ELA, Math, Social Studies, Science, and Art. The students also keep a digital journal and maintain their own blog as part of their online portfolio. Mr. VanGorder’s classroom connects to home easily through a parent section on the classroom webpage where parents can check out what is going on in class, get answers to curriculum questions and student resources, or even schedule a parent-teacher conference.
Where the Broadband Ends, the Library Steps Up.
When Ithaca Schools announced the 1:1 Chromebook program Tompkins County Public Library recognized that not all of the school district's students had access to WiFi in their home, and for many households, broadband service wasn't even offered in their area. To make it easier for teens to get on the internet and maximize their educational opportunities with their Chromebooks, TCPL amended its library card and internet policies. The library also purchased Chromebooks for Homework Help, and taught students how to use OverDrive to borrow eBooks, and eAudiobooks from the library. The students were thrilled when TCPL librarians showed them they could access the eBooks they want instantly, check out books without worrying about fines, make suggestions for the library's eBook collection, and, of course, access books even when they couldn't make it to the library, which is especially important for the rural population the library serves. Kate DeVoe and Sarah O'shea, Youth Services Librarians at TCPL, report that the outreach proved to be a great experience for the students they met with, and the demonstration of the resources available with their library card motivated a good number of children to get one.
The Sustainability Spotlight is a weekly series that highlights community-driven, environmentally sound, and economically responsible programs and projects in libraries and other organizations. You can find more projects in the Sustainability Spotlight Archive or visit NYLA's Sustainability Initiative to learn more about how you can get started with sustainability in your library.