Working to exceed academic goals is engrained in the mindsets of students, staff members and administrators in the Spring Hill School District, and the results have been documented. However, how does the district ensure students are fully engaged and ultimately prepared to be successful in colleges and careers? The question is firmly rooted in the district’s mission statement:
“To be a school district that engages students to learn, create, adapt and succeed in an ever-changing world.”
The answer also builds upon the district’s mission statement, and the results are changing the face of learning at Spring Hill Middle (SHMS) and High Schools (SHHS).
In December 2014, Spring Hill Board of Education members approved the purchase of MacBook Air computers for all students in grades 6-12. The technology was purchased with savings achieved on the 2011 bond program, which replaces any major technology expenditures for several years at these schools. In early February, more than 1,200 students received their MacBook Air laptops for use at school and home.
“Putting this learning tool in the hands of students opens up opportunities for academic growth and engagement,” said Dr. Bart Goering, superintendent of schools. “There’s no doubt in my mind that this program will enhance students’ learning experiences, and ensure our students are college, career and life ready.”
A Changing Classroom
Long gone are the days of blackboards and dusty erasers in schools across the country. Today’s classrooms are reflective of advances in technology and today’s workplaces. Spring Hill Schools have been committed to providing quality technology in the classroom for many years. Along with a high computer-to-studentratio, the district has invested in significant professional development for staff. As a result, teachers were ready for the transition to 1-to-1. While it’s early in the process, the district is already seeing a transformation in the way teachers teach and students learn.
“We are seeing a higher level of engagement from many of our students,” said Rod Sprague, SHMS principal. “Our students do not know a world without technology. With the right tools in their hands, they are excited and motivated to show us how far they can take research, assignments and projects.”
In addition, Sprague noted that increased efficiency was an immediate impact of the new technology. Students no longer spend time checking out laptops from a cart, which allows teachersto simply move into exercises and saves valuable instructional time. The use of Google Classroom by many of the teachers also has made it easy for students to manage assignments as well as access information posted by the teacher and class discussions.
Throughout the middle and high schools, teachers are seeing more collaboration and increased communication. Students also are finding more opportunities to create original products, showing more than the ability to memorize and repeat learned information. All of these elements indicate that students are moving toward a higher level of thinking skills, which is critical for success at college and in careers.
Student education about appropriate use of the Internet and technology is critical to helping children stay safe and secure. At school, digital literacy and citizenship curriculum is integrated into all classrooms and used to educate students about safe Internet practices. In addition, all students received concentrated safety training the day that they received their laptops.
“Before high school students logged on to their MacBooks for the first time, we discussed Internet safety, including cyberbullying, online predators, security of personal information, a person’s digital footprint, as well as the dangers of oversharing and sharing inappropriate content,” said Rebecca Fawcett, SHHS media specialist. “We want to ensure that every student is a responsible digital citizen and a wise user of the information resources found online. In addition to Internet safety, we are integrating information literacy lessons throughout the curriculum.”
Besides built-in training, the district’s Acceptable Use Policy and code of conduct set expectations for students. Content filtering, data encryption and firewalls also provide a layer of on-campus security.
However, learning and discovery doesn’t stop when students leave the campus. Having a laptop at home means more time for homework, creativity and projects.
During orientation meetings, parents were encouraged to make safety decisions that fit their family values and speak to children about appropriate choices.
Whether using them at home or school, students attending Spring Hill Middle and High Schools have received a significant boost toward successful futures.
In addition, computers that were replaced in these schools are now being repurposed to serve the district’s three elementary schools so that all students have the tools needed for unlimited learning.