Project Innovate

In 2015, I applied for our school to be a 1:1 pilot school under a district initiative called Project Innovate. We were chosen as the first high school, and 275 laptops were sent to our school. Unfortunately, this started so late we were unable to track students nor able to send them home with students due to a lack of insurance from the district. The laptops ended up in carts in classrooms, and teachers were trained in technology in those classrooms. For those rooms, the teachers found great success in implementing 1:1 technology in their classrooms.

In my return to the classroom in 2016-2017, we were much better prepared, with identified cohorts in AP Computer Science and AVID. We communicated with parents at the end of the prior school year, and were able to hand out insurance forms in the first week of school. We had Geniuses to clean up laptops, distribute and facilitate their use. Our tech support class became a staple of what high schools need if the program were to be expanded. One major obstacle was WiFi infrastructure issues, and one course went back to desktops due to impossible WiFi in their classroom.

Ultimately, the teachers who started Project Innovate didn’t get to use the laptops the way they liked without the laptop cart, as fewer students were able to interact with technology as they were in the hands all day of the AP CSP and AVID cohorts. Beyond those courses, teachers weren’t able to handle only one or two students in their class with laptops, so they weren’t used anymore than a laptop cart in those original classrooms.

For the district to pilot one or two classes in an elementary classroom makes sense. Even at a middle school in a team setting, piloting in this way can work. However, for 1:1 to work at a high school, it needs to be across a whole grade level. In a district strapped financially, 1:1 seems like a distant dream.

During the year though, I started connecting my experience in CTE with Project Innovate. When students pass the Microsoft Office Specialist bundle (Word, Excel and Powerpoint), the district earns $800. This is more than enough to buy another $350 laptop, even after other expenses.

In this model, each entering freshman would take Digital Information Technology, a course that centers around the MOS certification. They would get their laptop in this class, and earn it for the next three years upon passing the certification. This means each year a new grade level goes 1:1, giving time to train all teachers. In four years, the whole school would be 1:1, without any extra expense to the district. Other benefits include that passing an IT certification exam while sitting in the class counts as an online course, causing the school to not lose FTE to FLVS. It also guarantees a 100% acceleration rate, giving each student equitable opportunities to access college and career skills.

Next school year I’m teaching one section of the course to experiment with it, equitable certification outcomes, and how to make it a freshman homeroom style course. Hopefully the next school year we can launch this on the 9th grade level, moving towards 1:1 in five years. This needs a partnership with purchasing, with a plan to lease and sell the computers to the students at graduation for $1 to inspire students to graduate and give them a tool or career or college on gradution. We also need to firm up our support with CTE, which has general support from a director, but needs more formal agreements for those funds to be used for technology in this way. I also need support from my administration to be able to pull freshmen from a reading class and be placed into this course. Our biggest discussions have centered on finding strong business certified teacher who could teach this course.

For now, this reflects teacher as innovator, as I’ll be teaching this course in the coming year with the intent to expand this under the larger vision next year. It allows me to experiment with a small group to find success in the MOS certification. This shows my influence at the site and district level to innovate under existing structures, merging and expanding CTE as well as the Project Innovate 1:1 initiative for no money out of the district funds for technology.