By CARY OWENS/Chief Technology Officer & KIMBERLY BRUMLEY/Executive Director of Curriculum & Instruction

You won’t see Angry Birds or Candy Crush in Title I elementary classrooms these days, but you will see happy students collaborating to crush learning goals.

Beginning as a Title I initiative related to the District Strategic Plan, more than 3,000 10-year-old classroom computers were replaced with new iPads in August 2018. No longer saddled with the oldest devices in the district, every elementary classroom will have a minimum of five student iPads and a new teacher iPad before the winter holiday.

Instead of using devices only for routine skill practice, students are able to use the iPads to show concept mastery through original products and self-reflection. For example, instead of playing basic fact games or taking a paper math test on finding least common multiples, students can use iPads to create videos of themselves teaching the concept and working examples. Teachers manage the devices, monitor students’ activities in real time, and share individual students’ presentations with the class using Apple’s Classroom app.

To support the spread of effective instructional technology practices, each elementary campus principal identified four Apple lead teachers who participate in additional training and on-site coaching visits with Apple Professional Learning Specialists. The lead teachers then share the knowledge gained with colleagues on their campuses.

Whether identified as a lead teacher or not, many Abilene ISD teachers have earned Apple Teacher recognition by completing a series of self-paced proficiency trainings in select iPad apps particularly useful for creativity and productivity in the classroom. Since Superintendent Dr. David Young issued the teacher proficiency challenge at convocation last August, more than 250 AISD teachers have reached this learning goal. In fact, so many teachers accomplished the goal in just a few months that the district drew attention and praise from Apple’s national professional learning department.

So what about secondary? Each middle school and high school currently has four teachers participating in the Digital Leader Corps (DLC) in partnership with Discovery Education. Discovery Education Technology Integration Specialists provide five days of professional development. DLC teachers will also receive follow-up classroom coaching visits to assist and model technology integration. As they develop more engaging and effective instructional practices, these teachers’ classrooms will be open for colleagues to visit and get ideas for enhancing their own students’ experiences. Each of the Digital Learning Corps teachers will have the opportunity to teach with both iPads and Chromebooks in order that the teachers and students can provide feedback on future device purchases for the district.