The Cutting Edge
DigitalEdge News - December 12, 2014
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DigitalEdge Awarded Vendor - Amplify Access: A Case Study for Ocean Beach SD with Amplify Tablets
Full school transformation - 1:1 with the Amplify System
Please contact Amplify System for more information:
Phone: (720) 341-3938
CASE STUDY: Ilwaco Middle School
Ilwaco Middle School, part of the Ocean Beach School District, is located in Ilwaco, a quiet coastal community in Washington state.
240 students in grades 6-8; 70% qualify for free and reduced lunch. Ethnic/racial diversity: 75% Caucasian, 16% Latino, 2% Asian, 7% two or more races.
Rolled out the Amplify System to all students and staff in mid-September. Prior to that, students had access to laptop carts.
The 1:1 implementation was endorsed by the Ocean Beach district superintendent and technology director, and then approved by the school board. It was funded through local tax levies specifically earmarked for technology upgrades within the school district.
Re-establishing a middle school’s identity
Principal Marc Simmons says his middle school was stuck in an identity crisis of sorts—for seven years it had shared a building with a high school, and he worried that his seventh- and eighth-graders as well as his faculty were feeling lost in the crowd. Not the kind of experience the students needed, given how challenging the middle school years can be in general. There was no glue holding the middle school together, it seemed.
In addition, the school lacked the kind of technology offerings Simmons felt his students needed to prepare for their future. He knew of other schools that had made the leap to 1:1 learning—some successfully and some unsuccessfully—but his school was still using laptop carts, and they just weren’t enough anymore. Instead of taking advantage of apps and online resources anytime, anywhere, students were restricted to the times a laptop was available for check-out.
Simmons worried that students felt uninspired by the curriculum and that the grading system they used was antiquated, leaving students unsure how they were actually performing at school.
Simmons felt it was time for some tough questions and most likely some disruption.
"This was our opportunity to develop our preferred future," he recalls. "We needed to ask, ‘How do we get inspired? What do we want to be as a middle school? We needed to build a new vision."
A full school transformation, which included going 1:1 with the Amplify System.
After many discussions with faculty, students and the parent community, Ilwaco’s vision for its future was this: a true middle school, with just grades six through eight under one roof; a 1:1 initiative that would deeply integrate technology with everyday instruction and learning; a more diverse set of course offerings with students’ true interests in mind, and a more detailed method of measuring student performance.
The school fought for and won the right to take sole ownership of the building that was originally built just for middle schoolers, and grades 9-12 returned to their old building. The middle school then convinced the district school board that 1:1 learning was not just a nice-to-have but a need-to-have, to keep students engaged and also on track for college and career readiness.
Hand in hand with that decision, the school introduced an innovative twist to its weekly course offerings: a program called Pathways, in which Fridays are devoted solely to two-hour elective courses that range in subject from archery to culinary arts to moviemaking to outdoor survival, with all courses incorporating technology in some way.
Making the Amplify Choice:
Once funding for a 1:1 initiative was secured, school and district administrators spent many weeks researching solutions. They knew the technology piece would be key to building a better school, Simmons says, and were determined to choose the right partner.
"Our neighboring district got iPads a couple years ago, and there were several concerns about the vehicle/medium," Simmons says. "They said they couldn’t call attention to the kids, who were off-task and distracted. We didn’t want to make the same mistake."
The Amplify System was a hands-down winner, Simmons says, because it is designed specifically for education. Ilwaco wanted a solution that included classroom management and assessment tools for teachers as well as collaboration tools and personalization features for students. They found all of it built into the Amplify System.
The Amplify System in action:
Since Ilwaco rolled out the Amplify System in mid-September, teachers and students find new ways the tablets have made a difference in everyday learning. It has touched every aspect of the school’s transformation, Simmons says.
The Pathways program is extremely popular among students and teachers, and the Amplify System is "one of the pillars" of Pathways, as it seamlessly integrated into the program, and without much effort.
"It is just a natural extension, whether the Pathways course is moviemaking, photography, even a topic like mountain biking— how do you replace a bike chain? The students use their tablets to research that and see how it’s done."
In traditional classes during the week, teachers have eagerly incorporated the tablets, using the classroom management tools and access to endless resources to take their lessons farther and deeper than they say they could in the past.
Teacher Kelly Jacobsen begins her humanities class by having students watch CNN Student News on their tablets. She then posts a question about a news item on the tablets’ Discussion board. Students type their answers to the question and respond to their classmates’ answers. She also shares news articles from the site Newsela, then follows up with Common Core-aligned questions like "What was the author’s purpose?"
Jacobsen says the Amplify System gives the term "formative assessment" a whole new meaning. Quick polls and quizzes that can be created and administered in an instant allow assessment to be part of everyday classroom practice, so teachers always have a pulse on students’ understanding. This enables them to go deeper in their evaluation of student performance, particularly with a new standards-based grading approach they implemented this year, Simmons says.
"The instructional tools, the assessment tools, it all just integrates wholeheartedly in what we do," he says. "It’s only been two months, but it is hard to imagine going back to doing things the way we did before we had them."
Simmons says the Amplify System is helping Ilwaco establish its new identity as a true middle school. "We have a culture of technology and innovation we are implementing," he says. "The sixth- through eighth-graders see their tablets as something that sets them apart from other schools. They have expressed a sense of pride when referring to the tablets, and feel privileged."