Four years ago, Monarch High embarked on a groundbreaking journey, a BYOD initiative that would make them a 1:1 school in four years. It was a project that required the efforts of everyone in their community: students and teachers, parents and business leaders, and district Ed Tech, IT and administration. It was a change that was much bigger than devices; it was about a shift in school culture, professional development, and instruction. Now that four years have passed and the entire school is 1:1, let’s see what has changed at Monarch High.
Moving from paper to digital tools is what is known as Substitution on the SAMR model of technology integration. SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition) describes how technology can be used in increasingly effective ways in the classroom. For many who are newer to technology, the Substitution phase of SAMR is the first step in a transformative journey, and this is where many at Monarch High began four years ago.
Today, most teachers and students at Monarch High rely on several key digital tools. They use an online Learning Management System (LMS) daily for posting assignments, mediating classroom discussions, and grading. Students access the LMS every day to obtain class resources, partake in the discussion board, take online tests, and submit assignments. Most classes also use a tool called Turnitin to teach students how to avoid plagiarism and develop a strong writing voice. Finally, students experience differentiated assessments through Voicethread, Vocaroo, WeVideo and other online tools.
A school’s culture is what ultimately makes a change successful. The introduction of devices into Monarch was more than just a logistical feat; it was a challenge for individuals and for the entire school culture. Over the last four years, Monarch High teachers have shifted away from fear or distrust of technology to seeing technology as integral to instruction. Teachers are taking more risks, asking for more support and training, and collaborating with each other more. Resistant teachers are no longer resistant. They are now the first ones to say, "If this tool goes away, I will have to quit teaching!"
Student culture has been changing, too. Instead of turning in homework, they publish it online for a global audience. Instead of working in isolation, they work with each other and with experts around the world. For students, it has become second nature to capture and share their thoughts in collaborative tools like Google Docs.
One reason for the cultural shift at Monarch High was professional development support. It wasn’t just a matter of learning new tools, although that part shouldn’t be overlooked—rather, teachers were expected to change their approach to instruction as a result of using these tools, and this is happening because of a commitment to ongoing professional development.
Over the last four years, teachers have experienced a wide range of PD opportunities. They have attended training within their school teams, district PD from the BVSD Ed Tech team, and statewide conferences. In the 4th year, a part-time technology integration specialist position was created to help teachers reach the next level in their growth. Monarch also has a team of teachers who help plan and deliver professional development so that they can differentiate for the needs of their school.
Monarch instructors still have a long way to go, but a culture has been built that supports each teacher at their skill level. Now, teachers and administrators truly own their learning by setting personal goals, documenting evidence of their growth in online portfolios, and continually seeking to improve their pedagogy.
The most profound transformation at Monarch High has been in instruction. Teachers are thinking bigger than just substituting a digital tool for a piece of paper, they are considering how they can leverage all kinds of tools to redefine instruction. In other words, they are reaching for the highest levels of the SAMR model.
Students are more engaged because they are participating in authentic learning and connecting with other students around the world. Their class time consists less of lecturing and more of inquiry and problem-based learning. They create reflective blogs and online portfolios to showcase their projects. Their homework is transitioning from paper to multimedia products that are published to a worldwide audience. You can see examples of these amazing projects, as well as a tool of the month, on the MOHI BYOD website.
Monarch and Beyond
The vision that Monarch started on this journey four years ago has picked up speed throughout BVSD. There are now similar efforts in several schools around the district—Eldorado K8, Bear Creek Elementary, Angevine Middle, and most notably at Centaurus High, where a 1:Web initiative is underway. With enough funding, we hope to move the entire district to 1:Web. Through it all we can reflect on Monarch High’s transformation as an example of what can happen when tools, instruction, culture, and support at the school and district level come together to create a learning environment where students thrive.