Student Feedback Plays Key Role in 1-to-1’s Future

Wheeling Middle School student Audrey Diehl works with teacher Jen Neff on one of the Chromebooks that have become valuable classroom teaching and learning tools.

WHEELING — Teachers and administrators in Ohio County Schools believe the school system’s 1-to-1 Technology Integration Pilot Program is working.

They believe that because the students tell them so.

The Ohio County Schools 1-to-1 initiative was implemented at the start of the 2018-19 school year, and the initial phase involved providing a new Chromebook for each sixth-grade student in the county. The program has been such a success that the technology department is working to expand the program to students in grades seven through 12.

Throughout this academic year, the district has gathered many forms of data to assist in decision making regarding the current and future iterations of technology implementation. At first, staff focused on preparing and supporting teachers as they embarked on the overwhelming task of learning to use a new device, of making purposeful decisions about the most appropriate and effective places to integrate technology within units of instruction, and of supporting students in gaining the necessary skills not only to engage in a technology-infused learning environment but also to develop “soft skills” like organization and responsibility as related to their new devices. Conversations with teachers as well as administrator-gathered data led officials to believe that the personal devices were making an impact on the type of instruction that was occurring in sixth grade.

However, looking for success only from the point of view of teachers and administrators felt incomplete. In order to truly determine the impact of this initiative, the district needed to take a look from the eyes of the students who were engaging with the technology each day.

“We decided that they could offer a unique and valuable measure to complement and balance the information provided by the adults who were involved in implementation,” Ohio County Schools Innovation Coordinator JoJo Shay said. “With the help of the building principals, we were afforded the opportunity to interview the county’s sixth-graders in small groups over several weeks.”

One student told them: “I am shy, and I am not going to ask questions in class, but I will send a message to my teacher in Schoology.”

Another said, “I had a partner, and I found out what a wonderful person she was, and it sparked a blooming friendship.”

Yet another said, “I was so happy when we received our Chromebooks because it was the first computer that I have ever had.”

These are just a few of the statements made by Ohio County Schools sixth-graders when Shay had the opportunity to interview them over the past few weeks about their experiences as part of the county’s 1-to-1 initiative. Each time she completed an interview session in one of the county’s middle schools, she was more convinced than ever that this initiative made a positive impact on the academic success and personal growth of the students.

“I was quite impressed with the students’ abilities to articulate their opinions and critique and offer solutions to what they see as challenges to the success of the 1-to-1 initiative,” she said.

For instance, they praised the county’s decision to move to Chromebooks because it allowed them to reduce the amount of textbooks that they have to carry from class to class and to and from school each day. They also stated that they enjoy the idea that all of their materials, including textbooks, can be found on one device. They felt that this aided in their personal organization, and therefore, in their success as students.

At the same time, they provided effective feedback regarding the glitches that occur with the particular version of one of the Chromebooks that they use. This feedback, along with suggestions from the teachers regarding the same topic, will be used to guide the selection process for future e-books.

The sixth-graders also described their appreciation for the learning management system, “Schoology,” that is utilized throughout the county. While I knew that it was one of many tools that was being used, the students helped me to comprehend its role as the central tool in the success of the 1-to-1 initiative.

Students across all four middle schools described the way the tool allowed them to send electronic questions to their teachers, to look for assignment descriptions and due dates for assignments in all of their classes, and to check their grades. They said these features supported their personal organization and success in the classroom.

“This feedback has shifted the way in which we will train those teachers in grades seven-12 who will be included in phase two of the 1-to-1 rollout in the 2019-2020 academic year,” Shay said.

Finally, the students related their experience in watching their teachers grow as users of technology in the classroom. They stated that their teachers have varying levels of comfort and knowledge when using technology but that they were very willing to ask each other and the students for assistance when they encountered problems. This made the students nervous at the beginning of the year because they believed that their teachers should have answers to “all of their questions.” However, as time moved on, students reported that their teachers’ willingness to collaborate when using technology made them feel more confident themselves because if the teachers were allowed to have questions, then it was OK for the students to have them as well.

“Since completing the interviews, I have spent much time thinking about all of the valuable information that I learned from the students and the power of the changes that will be made because of what they had to say,” Shay added. “It is always very easy to just keep moving forward with our own ideas of what is best in the field of education, but when we take the time to listen to the students we serve no matter what their age, we only make our systems and ourselves better.

“Do I believe that our 1:1 program has been a success thus far? Yes. Am I more convinced of it now that I have our students have had their say? Absolutely.”

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