Ulysses Employs 1:1 to Level the Playing Field

May 31, 2019: Volume 26, Number 11

 For Ulysses (KS) School District 214, a 1:1 computing initiative begun in August 2018 is a way to level the playing field in a system of 1,700 students, where more than 80% are English-language learners, with many the children of migrant workers.

The Ulysses computing initiative includes a 1:1 distribution of Lenovo Chromebooks with take-home privileges for high school students. District technology director Dennis Gonzales told EER that as he checks the devices back into school for the summer, students question what they will do without them.

Students in grades 2-8 also have Chromebooks, but for in-school use, while students in grades K-2 use iPads. Gonzales said the iPads with touch screen apps work best for students still learning their letters and numbers.

District classrooms also are equipped with interactive whiteboards, projectors and document cameras; teachers work in the Promethean Planet online community.

To ease the 1:1 implementation, Ulysses partnered with Impero Software (Austin, TX). Impero helps with the management and monitoring of devices—teachers can see all screens in classroom, warn or lock down students who are off task and limit what websites are accessed.

Impero also helps manage what students do with their computers when they take them home. The Impero server, as set up by Ulysses, blocks some categories of sites but does allow broader access than when students are in school—for example, they can go to social media like Facebook and Twitter at home.

Teacher Buy-In

Since implementation of 1:1 technology, many teachers have grabbed on and are excelling, while some still are working through using devices in the classroom, according to Gonzales. He said the biggest struggle in the district is with professional development around technology.

“We put all this technology into the classroom and introduce the teacher to it,” Gonzales said. “I think we drop the ball if we don’t continue to do a weekly or monthly session to keep teachers abreast of what is going on with technology and to give them a chance to see other teachers using it in a different fashion.”

Ulysses has implemented professional learning communities for teachers district-wide by discipline so they can get together to collaborate and share.

Devices Part of Ecosystem

With the 1:1 initiative in place, Gonzales said instructional resources in the district roughly are a 60/40 online/text mix. Resources, even those coming from textbook publishers are trending more digital and data based, he said.

PowerSchool (Folsom, CA) provides the district’s student information system and gives an avenue for parents to monitor student progress. Google Classroom use is close to universal with 98% of teachers using it for collecting, grading and returning assignments, as well as to facilitate in-class discussion and assessment.

With the device availability, assessment in the district has moved online. That includes high stakes state tests and NWEA (Portland, OR) Measures of Academic Progress testing in grades 3-12 and FastBridge Learning (Minneapolis) K-2 formative assessment.

This year, Ulysses also partnered with Clever (San Francisco) to help ease teacher technology use and manage passwords of teachers and students. Clever single sign-on through Google management provides users with access to all programs they use and has been a great benefit, Gonzales said.

To address the need for English instruction for the large population of migrant children, Ulysses uses the Rosetta Stone (Arlington, VA) Language Learning Suite. The students work one-to-two hours per day with the software, in addition to their academic work in kindergarten through 12th grade classrooms.

The 2018-2019 budget for Ulysses has total expenditure of $23.5 million, with instructional expenditure of $13.4 million. Per-pupil expenditure is $13,746.

 

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