Choosing Digital Content for One-to-One Classrooms

Implementing a successful one-to-one computer to program in schools requires addressing several important components. The hardware platform for launching activities and tools is one important component. Another key element is the culture - a learning community built on core values that respects the investment and instills responsibility at a high level in the learner. Yet another important piece at nex+Gen Academy was learning tools, applications, resources and programs the students and teachers would be using. I’d like to share our successes and our learning experiences in our early years of implementation of one-to-one technology at nex+Gen Academy.

Learning Management Systems

Critical to our success at the start, has been a learning management system that truly meets the special needs of project and problem based learning. As partners in the New Tech Network, we have a customized system which uses a Drupal open source content management platform. The system, called Echo, provides a ‘Project Briefcase’ tool that teachers use to construct their lessons. This also provides access for learners to resources, activities, agendas, and much more. Grades, discussions, events, collections, and even parent access is all supported. The common workspace for all teachers and students is a Google Domain embedded through the Echo servers. This nearly turnkey, customized system has proven to be invaluable as the center of use for our technology.

Fostering Use of Digital Content

Another important choice that we made for many practical and innovative reasons was the purchase of a complete on-line virtual library from Cengage Learning. From the very start, our facilitators and learners and even their brothers and sisters at home have accessed these resources on a regular basis for all disciplines. A key to our ongoing success with these resources has been the periodic support and professional development provided by Cengage to our facilitators. We also integrate the links to our virtual library from within our Learning Management System.

Staff Input on Digital Content

We had some struggles along the way. One challenge of a new high school like ours is purchasing deadlines. Deadlines for starting on-line resources and programs came before teachers were hired and fully trained. As the director and principal I did my best to research, study, and plan carefully before purchasing. Although we had hits such as Adobe Creative Suites and, we had misses with other programs. It is not that these were bad programs; they were just not a good fit for the project-based learning culture at our school.

Fortunately, as our school became more mature and our collaborative decision making model took hold, we were able to move beyond those early investments that didn’t pay off and moved to tools that did, thanks to listening to the good ideas of my staff. How do you make choices for digital content for your district or school? What criteria matters most to you? Please add your comments below. 

Dr. Michael Stanton is the Founding Principal and Director of nex+Gen Academy, a small School of Choice in Albuquerque Public Schools. nex+Gen is a member of the New Tech Network. He earned his Ph.D in 2009 from the University of New Mexico, College of Education in Organizational Learning and Instructional Technology with a minor in Educational Leadership. His school is an Exemplary School and Demonstration Site for wall-to-wall project and problem based learning, smart use of technology in a 1 to 1 setting, and a learning community and cultural that develops and supports core values and enduring skills in agency, collaboration, inquiry and analysis, and communication. 

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