New 1-to-1 Program Is Part of a Middle School's Revitalization

Ilwaco Middle School in the small coastal town of Ilwaco, WA implemented a 1-to-1 program this fall as part of a larger campaign to create a sense of community on the campus and reinvigorate the students' interest in learning.

For the last seven years, the middle school, with seventh- and eighth-graders had shared a campus with a larger high school and, according to Principal Marc Simmons, they felt "lost in the crowd." At the same time, he thought the traditional laptop cart program the school had wasn't enough and, in general, students were not inspired by the curriculum.

He went to work and got his district, the Ocean Beach School District, to agree to some major changes. First off, it became what Simmons describes as a true middle school for sixth- through eighth-graders in its own building.

Next, every one of the 240 students in the newly formulated school got an Amplify tablet designed by Intel Education and the curriculum was overhauled with the help of the Amplify System, which included new classroom management and assessment tools for teachers and personalization features and collaboration tools for students.

Finally, the curriculum overhaul Simmons talked about included turning Fridays into "Pathways," with the entire day devoted to two-hour elective courses that ranged from archery and culinary arts to moviemaking and outdoor survival, all incorporating technology in one way or the other.

As an example, a group of students used their tablets to research how to replace a bike chain when it broke.

And, in one of the more traditional classes on the other days of the week, humanities teacher Kelly Jacobsen had students watch CNN Student News on their tablets before posting questions about a news item that they could respond to by typing into their tablets. She also shared news articles from the Newsweek site and followed up with questions like "What was the author's purpose?"

Although Ilwaco is only a few months into the 1-to-1 implementation, Jacobsen said the quick polls and quizzes she's able to give now have allowed her the ability to have a more immediate read on how well students are understanding the class content.

"It's only been two months, but it is hard to imagine going back to doing things the way we did before we had this," Simmons said.

About the Author

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.