Sunday, August 10, 2008

Update of OPS 24/7 Learning

OPS 24/7 Learning Initiative Update
July 2008
Katie Morrow

Access to the world’s most up-to-date information, communication with experts in every possible field, collaboration with people across the globe, and creativity tools to make multimedia magic... all this at every student’s fingertips 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!

O’Neill Public Jr./Sr. High School is ready to embark on this transformative stage in education. Often referred to as 1:1 computing, each student will be issued a laptop, complete with a multitude of educational software, that they will be able to use for learning all school year long.

OPS’s 24/7 Learning Initiative originated during the 07-08 school year, although researched in years prior, and was piloted by juniors and seniors starting last January. OHS faculty have used laptops for approximately a year and have had many opportunities for training on their use in the classroom.

The true experts in utilizing the latest software and hardware, however, will most likely be the students. Today’s learners come to school with different background skills and expectations for their learning environment. Some even say that these “digital natives” have brains that are “wired differently” than students in generations before them. We at O’Neill Public Schools strive to ENGAGE these students in the learning process, not turn them off to learning by banning the modes of communication, collaboration, and creativity which are most natural to our youth. The laptop is one powerful learning tool to reach our students in meaningful ways.

More importantly than just connecting with our students, the laptop opens up doors not possible without the technology. Videoconferencing through iChat, web design tools to publish on the Internet, podcast lectures downloaded from iTunesU for free from leading universities, digital music composition, photo editing, and video production... all this and more can be done with the MacBook laptop.

And all students have access to this, regardless of background, ability, or aptitude. Technology truly helps “level the playing field.” O’Neill Public School 7th-12th grade students can take their learning to whatever levels and in whichever directions they deem important for their future.

And our students’ futures are crucial for our future as well. Students graduating from high school in the next ten years will have numerous career opportunities, some of which do not even exist today. Our job is to prepare students for their futures, not their past, and to make the line between school and real-life more invisible. 21st century learning encompasses more than just the traditional content areas of schools of the past. The workforce is looking for employees who are innovative, collaborative, and self-directed, “The future belongs to young people who know where the knowledge is, how to get it, how to think about it, and how to turn it into better work, better products, better lives.” (Rexford Brown)

21st century learning still hinges on the backbone of core content area subjects, but also embeds connectivity and collaboration, creation by students (not just passive learning), and problem solving within the learning process. The 24/7 Learning Initiative is a strong first step towards these this ideal learning environment for students at O’Neill Public Schools.

Students will check out their MacBooks for the 2008-2009 school year after attending a two hour “Boot Camp” session accompanied by at least one parent. These sessions will be held from 5:00-7:00 p.m. on either Tuesday, August 12 or Thursday, August 14, and will cover the basics of MacBook operation, care and handling of the laptop, copyright and plagiarism, “Angel” online learning management system, and Internet safety. Students will each pay a $25.00 rental fee which will be partially refunded in the spring if they have no claims or damages.

Teachers are still the experts of their instructional areas and laptop may not be in use every hour of every school day, but students will have the opportunity to use the technology for note taking, research, collaboration, independent extensions, and projects to demonstrate their learning, to name a few. Already during the pilot semester, students used their MacBooks for creating iMovie political ads to learn about political campaigns, Math review lessons for the SMART Board taught entirely by the student, iPhoto nonfiction Science books published for the Elementary Library, Holocaust projects, graphing and statistic projects, Public Service Announcements in Spanish, Commercial movies for local businesses, podcasts about O’Neill and fictitious interviews with famous scientists, movies on Westward Expansion, student portfolios to showcase their learning progress, and websites over literary novels, just to name a few. Many more examples of superior student work can be viewed by visiting our Sharing Gallery at http://www.esu8.org/~oneill/24-7.

A common list of Frequently Asked Questions covering issues such as safety/security, student infractions, etc. can also be found at the OPS 24/7 Learning website at http://www.esu8.org/~oneill/24-7. Be sure to look for many additions to the website in the upcoming months.

A large debt of gratitude is owed to the O’Neill Public Schools Board of Education, the administration, and teachers and technology staff who have given countless extra hours into planning and implementing this initiative. O’Neill Public School is excited and proud to lead the way towards a transformative learning environment focused on the future of our best and brightest minds: our students.

2 comments:

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Lucinda said...

I think this is a great idea. Opening up the world through accessible technology will serve to strengthen the skills each child will need when entering either the collegiate or working world. I hope that the educators will promote specialised, quality, and instructive learning software and programs. There are so many fantastic programs out there these days. IEP Resources, math resources, Science, and even social studies software programs are just a few.

I congratulate the administration for embracing the future of the children and their impact on the world.