Saugus USD To Launch Student Writing Collaboration Project

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Saugus Union School District in Santa Clarita, CA is launching a new writing program for its fourth-grade students that couples writing and science using ultra-mobile devices and collaborative learning software, among other technologies. According to information supplied to us by the district, the initiative is being funded through a $1.4 million EETT competitive grant the district recently won.

The initiative, dubbed "Student Writing Achievement Through Technology Enhanced Collaboration" (SWATTEC), focuses on writing achievement within the science curriculum. EETT funding will provide access to Asus wireless ultra-mobile devices (UMDs) for all 1,700 fourth-grade students in the district, Web-based writing tools, and an online collaborative learning environment. It will also provide teachers with laptops, projectors, printers, interactive pads, mobile carts, and wireless hardware. Teachers are also receiving professional development for the initiative.

Although there is a 1:1 component built into the SWATTEC initiative, Jim Klein, director of Information Services & Technology for Saugus USD, told us that the emphasis is not just on throwing technology at the students, but on using these tools as a means to an end.

"While the project might look like a vanilla 1:1 project, 1:1 is not our primary goal," Klein said. "The center of the project is writing and collaboration using social media technologies; the devices are just tools that will get us there. Ultimately we want the technology part of it to be completely transparent--to be at once invisible and indispensable."

According to information released by the district, the program will be supported by staff development and teacher professional development, along with ongoing evaluations. "Technology integration is key to the success of this project, and successful technology integration requires solid training and implementation support. Through partnerships with the California Technology Assistance Project (CTAP), Vantage Learning Inc., and Digital Edge Learning, extensive professional development will be provided for 53 fourth grade teachers, 15 coach/mentors, and school and project administrators."

The district also added that the initiative has not come about on a whim, but has been carefully conceived and "backed by tremendous research...." Klein told us that each component of the project has been selected with specific characteristics in mind, including ease of use, durability, accessibility, and, of course, educational value.

"The Web 2.0 technologies at the heart of the project are both easy to use and ubiquitously accessible, which we believe removes complexity, breaks down barriers, and extends the classroom beyond its four walls," he said. "The UMDs (Asus EeePCs) are far less expensive and more durable than traditional laptops, which we expect will extend their usable life in the hands of elementary school students. Their Linux-based user interface is ideal for practical student use and will free our teachers from having to teach/support complex operating systems, allowing them to focus instead on tasks and goals."

He continued: "Much of the included software is inherently social in nature, which will enable our students, teachers, and parents to build a sense of community and connectedness, furthering our goals of communication, collaboration, and global awareness. This is really a 21st century learning project, and we are looking forward to sharing many exciting discoveries as it unfolds.

Planning and implementation phases for the SWATTEC initiative begin this month. Further information about the program, including goals, timelines, and additional details, can be found on Klein's blog here.

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About the author:David Nagel is the executive editor for 1105 Media's online education technology publications, including THE Journal and Campus Technology. He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com.

Proposals for articles and tips for news stories, as well as questions and comments about this publication, should be submitted to David Nagel, executive editor, at dnagel@1105media.com.

About the Author

Executive Producer David Nagel heads up the editorial department for 1105 Media's education publications — which include two daily sites, a variety of newsletters and two monthly digital magazines covering technology in both K-12 and higher education.

A 21-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/profile/view?id=10390192 or follow him on Twitter at @THEJournalDave (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education). A selection of David Nagel's articles can be found on this site.


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