Nation's First District-Wide Blended Program Set to Enter Year 2
- By Dian Schaffhauser
A year after a Yuma, AZ district introduced an iPad 1-to-1 program into grades K-8, at least one of its schools is seeking grant money to set up a program that would provide activities before and after school for students as well as classes for parents.
During the 2015-2016 school year Yuma Elementary School District One used $4.8 million in bond dollars to outfit all 9,000 students with access to the tablet computing devices and to do network infrastructure upgrades to sustain the increased bandwidth needs.
The district hired Education Elements to consult on how to structure the digital transformation, especially its flagship element, blended learning. Alongside the tablets, the district also began introducing a personalized learning program that melds a blend of face-to-face and frequent assessments to help teachers tailor their approaches to each student. Conservative think tank Lexington Institute called Yuma the first district in the country to convert completely to blended learning.
According to coverage in the Yuma Sun, the district considers its first year successful in spite of the fact that Yuma County has low numbers of homes with Internet access. As the article noted, "Even if the students don't have access to the internet at home, many of the apps have an offline component, which uploads to the servers when the student comes back to the school."
For their last in-service day, teachers shared videos they'd made using iMovie to show where their classrooms had begun and where they ended. The Sun story quoted Director of Learning Services Rindy Ward: "It was just neat to see them reflect and see just how far our students have come in the process... We'd never used iPads before as a tool, and now we use it on a daily basis or three times a week to work on instruction for kids. It's been pretty amazing."
At Ron Watson Middle School staff is developing a plan to expand the blend by adding classes and activities for its school community, including STEM parent nights, information nights on specific apps in use by the students and technology and iPad classes.
Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.