Leander ISD digitizes learning tools

Leander ISD digitizes learning tools Students use devices for a group project, which is part of the Mobile Leander ISD program, an initiative to help students learn digitally by providing them with devices such as laptops and tablets.[/caption]

By January all sixth- and ninth-graders throughout Leander ISD will use mobile devices as digital learning tools in the classroom for work including monitoring grades and assignments and participating in collaborative projects.

MLISD, or Mobile Leander ISD, is an initiative to help students learn digitally by providing them with devices such as tablets, laptops and desktop computers.

In spring 2014, trustees approved the sale of existing bonds to fund capital needs in the district, including approximately $17.8 million for technology replacement.

In the 2014-15 school year, the district began the rollout of mLISD by putting mobile devices in middle school math classrooms, which were each given 17 devices, or a two-student-per-device ratio, said Sarah Martinez, senior director for information technology services and decision-support.

Chosen for the first phase of the pilot program were sixth graders at Henry and Canyon Ridge middle schools as well as ninth graders at Leander High School.

In the fall 2015, the program was expanded to all students at the three campuses in grades six through eleven.

“We really feel like giving our kids more experience with interacting with digital content and managing their digital world is going to give them a leg up when they get to college,” Martinez said. “Technology changes so quickly, so we don’t really need to be teaching … classes where you [teach] a specific application.”

The program teaches students how to access content online, discern whether that content is reliable and research using Internet tools as well as social media safety, she said.

“We talk a lot about students not just being consumers of information but creators of information,” she said. “The kids [who] are in middle school today, most of them will probably have jobs that we can’t even conceive of today—they don’t even exist [yet]. So [we are] teaching kids to be problem-solvers, to be curious, to be agile and learn how to be creative in their thinking but also how to be able to access a variety of different content.”

Canyon Ridge Principal Susan Sullivan, said devices were given to all students at the school this year.

“[The program] has been powerful,” Sullivan said. “It really has changed the way we’re teaching and the kids are learning. … The projects, the collaboration, the ability to research and find knowledge at their fingertips has been awesome.”

Sullivan said one benefit to the program thus far is the ability for students to collaborate on group projects remotely, such as using Google Docs. Students have proven to be “very responsible” with taking care of the devices, she said.

The program will be deployed to the remaining sixth- and ninth-graders throughout secondary schools in LISD by January, Martinez said, with the first cohort of classrooms receiving devices in December.

A schedule for when schools will receive mobile devices is yet to be determined, she said.

According to mLISD projections, district staffers hope to deploy devices to all students by fall 2017 or fall 2018.