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Creating Opportunity in a Digital World Through mLISD

Creating Opportunity in a Digital World Through mLISD
Posted on 11/23/2016

Part of our vision for students in the LISD Graduate Profile is that they are “well-prepared to enrich our world and excel in a global society” and that “each student is challenged, encouraged and supported to achieve the highest level of knowledge, skills and character” in a digital world. While our students pursue many different paths and careers after exiting our system, success in whatever capacity will almost certainly require technology literacy and savvy. To help address this need, we expanded mLISD, our mobile learning initiative, at the beginning of this school year to make convertible laptops available to all middle and high school students.

As a combined result of the dramatic decrease in funding for printed textbooks, coupled with technology’s ability to increase learner engagement, LISD piloted programs that utilized laptop computers and other mobile devices in the classroom at select schools in the district over the past two years. After the first pilot, 80 percent of parents of participating students said mLISD had a “positive impact” on their child’s level of engagement in learning, while 88 percent of teachers found students to be more engaged in their learning.

The fully implemented version allows secondary students the opportunity to check out a Lenovo ThinkPad laptop from the district, opt to bring their own similar device from home or purchase a device at a reduced cost through one of the district’s partners in the mLISD Parent Purchase Program. Students using the Lenovo laptops maintain responsibility for it, carrying it to each class and to and from school with them each day, return it to the district at the end of the year, or opt to keep the device during the summer months. To provide maintenance, support and accidental damage protection for the district-owned devices, LISD collects an annual fee of $70 per device, or $35 for families on the free- and reduced-meal program. We also offer scholarships for families unable to pay the fee, thanks to generous partners like the Leander ISD Educational Excellence Foundation (LEEF) and H-E-B, as well as donations from our community. Currently, 94 percent of middle school and 75 percent of high school students have taken advantage of checking out one of the district’s Lenovo laptops for the year. We have currently deployed over 17,000 laptops directly to students this school year.

As our mLISD program grows and technology becomes a more integrated part of our classrooms, we are embracing new opportunities for learning. Many of our teachers say this technology allows them to more effectively create lessons that can challenge every level of learner, to provide more challenge once a skill has been mastered and to present materials in new and interesting ways. Students have reported increased collaboration with their peers using cloud-based apps like Google Drive to work on projects anytime and anywhere, as well as an increased feeling of organization and decrease in lost or late assignments. I recently spoke to a student who described her drive to work harder on a project because she knows she is accountable and wants to show her peers what she has learned. Her story was inspiring.

Through mLISD, our teachers and staff are teaching students responsible online behavior, digital citizenship and how to discern appropriate online resources. We are also equipping these students with tangible skills they can use in their future endeavors – skills like website creation and coding, video editing, troubleshooting, graphic design and researching. The days of “sit-and-get” learning with a teacher at the front of the room lecturing, the classroom many of us grew up in, is becoming more of a rarity. It is exciting to visit classrooms throughout our district and see teachers engaged with their students, students excited to create, to collaborate with their peers and to challenge themselves.

I hope you all have a wonderful, restful and safe Thanksgiving this week!