Personalized Learning Series: Coronado Unified School District Takes Lead on Digital Proficiency

Posted by: District 2 years, 1 month ago

Personalized Learning Series: Coronado Unified School District Takes Lead on Digital Proficiency

Taking the lead on digital proficiency hasn’t been a new concept here at the Coronado Unified School District (CUSD). Ensuring students are prepared for the era in which they live and will later work has always been a priority. We’ve strived to do more than educate students. We’ve worked to equip them to be productive and contributing members of society.

In the ‘90s, we championed having computer labs in every school. Back then, technology in education looked different. It was an external piece, separate from the classroom. Students attended a computer lab once or twice a week. 

While it may seem foreign today, that was progressive of that era.

As we moved into the early 2000’s, we continued our dedication to being a front-runner in digital proficiency. We started a laptop program in our middle schools. It was a specialized program that required students and parents to opt into. Students had to furnish their own laptops. We partnered with vendors to provide low-cost laptops to parents. Once the laptops were secured, we had technicians and classes tailored around learning to use these laptops.

Fast-forward to 2009 and CUSD received a Department of Defense Education Activity grant. This three-year Students Achieving Through Technology in the 21st Century (SATT21) grant was designed to help students progress into the digital age. Building on the digital foundation we created through the laptop program, we purchased almost 1,600 netbooks for our classrooms.

While this didn’t quite achieve our 1:1 computer to student ratio, it was a gigantic step forward in equipping students to thrive in a digital world.

2012 brought another Department of Defense Education Activity grant and 1,000 new devices. This was a monumental moment as between the devices provided by the school and students who brought their own, we now exceeded the 1:1 ratio we strived to achieve.

We achieved the point where technology was as integrated and essential to learning as a pencil. 

The influx of devices and technology proved to be more than our old network could handle. In 2012, we had to rebuild the entire network infrastructure of each school. This gave us the ability to both operate the current systems as well as to grow and expand into the digital age.

With the technology and tools in place throughout the district, we moved focus to ensure that technology enhanced learning. This shifted focus centered on two new areas:

  • defining what digital proficiency looks like by grade, and
  • ensuring teachers are equipped to teach those skills.

Recently the Technology Resource teachers from Silver Strand Elementary School and Village Elementary School spearheaded creating a scope and sequence plan for digital proficiency and citizenship for kindergarten through grade 5.  This effort tackled defining digital proficiency/citizenship as well as appropriate expectations for our students at the elementary school.

This comprehensive strategy outlines:

  • what future ready students look like at each grade,
  • what skills and tools should be taught,
  • what should be taught by the lab technician, and
  • what should be taught by the grade-level teacher.

It has been an incredible resource for our elementary school teachers. Following the success, we established plans to write one for grades 6-12.

Ensuring teachers are trained on digital tools has always been a challenge. These tools were not in existence when most teachers went through their teacher training. Because of this, we placed an emphasis on professional development.

There have been several exciting professional development opportunities, but the most exciting was the Google Apps for Education Summit that we hosted in 2014 and 2015 in Coronado. At the recent event, over 400 educators from around the US came to attend. As the host, we received 40 free seats for our teachers to attend, giving us a free training opportunity.

The takeaways from that event were phenomenal.

Our efforts coincided with a national initiative. During the 2014-15 school year, President Obama implemented “Future Ready Schools.” These schools and districts have superintendents who are committed to “implementing meaningful changes toward a digital learning transition that supports teachers, and addresses the district’s vision for student learning.” The initiative emphasized that schools need to be educating students for the era in which they live.

As a participating school, we took the pledge followed by evaluating ourselves to gauge our organization’s readiness for implementing digital learning based on the Future Ready framework.  With student learning as the focal point, the framework includes 7 areas of focus (called gears), which round back to the importance of leadership in the transformation process. The 7 gears include:

  1. Community & Partnership – involving the community through digital tools;
  2. Budget & Resources – ensuring you have the budget and funding to maintain alignment with digital initiatives;
  3. Curriculum & Assessment – integrating 21st century tools into every classroom and equipping teachers to use them;
  4. Privacy – ensuring privacy laws are met and keeping students safe; 
  5. Professional Learning – maintaining culture of digital professional development for teachers;
  6. Technology Networks & Hardware – having the infrastructure to implement digital classrooms;
  7. Use of Time – building in opportunities for students to activate home learning when not in the classroom. 

This initiative helped fine tune our school evaluation, enhancing efforts we have been implementing for almost two decades. As we continue into the digital age, we are committed to continuing as a frontrunner of digital proficiency.