Tech in AAPS: `Students are learning 21st Century skills on 21st Century devices’

Lawton Elementary students enjoy learning on iPads.

Story and photos by Jo Mathis/AAPS District News

Every Ann Arbor Public Schools student can now learn 21st Century skills with 21st Century technology. The $6.2 million tech purchases can be found in every school in the district, and include:

  • iPads
  • Chromebooks
  • MacBook Air laptops
  • An allocation of devices for supplementing instructional services (BYOD, Rotational Model, project base learning, innovative practices, special areas, magnets)
  • Two iPads for use in elementary music classes
  • Kiosks in most buildings that allow visitors to see updated announcements specific to that building
  • Needed upgrades to printers in common areas
  • Network Storage and Back-up systems for staff and student files.
  • Windows computers for Project Lead the Way Labs for all secondary schools
  • Project Lead the Way Launch iPad carts for pilot elementaries

The new technology comes courtesy of the 2012 Technology Bond that provides nearly $46 million over 10 years. These $6.2 million purchases are the final piece of the initial phase.

Every classroom in the district also now has a LadiBug document camera so that a teacher doing a science experiment, for instance, can record it live for the first class, then play the video for the other classes, which can replay and reuse as needed for analysis.

“Teachers love it,” said Merri Lynn Colligan, executive director of instructional technology & information services, noting that the LadiBug is just as useful now for students as for teachers as it’s become a station for kids to record material, then playback, and present.

These Scarlett Middle School students no longer have to be wired in at the computer lab to use the latest technology.
These Scarlett Middle School students no longer have to be wired in at the computer lab to use the latest technology.

Each elementary school also received a cart of 32 iPads for students in the building to share. Teachers reserve and check out the cart, which they roll into their classrooms.

Technology support for AAPS teachers is readily available.

Brooke  Stidhams’ first graders at A2STEAM love using technology in the classroom and trying out new apps.

“It’s amazing how tech-savvy even the youngest learners are, thanks to iPhones and other tablets that their parents use frequently at home or work,” said Stidhams.

The iPads allow students to take video, record their voice, as well as use the educational apps on them to do things like showing their meta-cognitive thinking, and showing how they’re processing information rather than just doing it., she added.

“We’ll use the iPads throughout the year for all subjects; to practice basic skills/facts, but to also produce videos and other presentations,” she said.

For their animal project-based learning unit last spring, first graders researched endangered animals and made iMovie trailers to share with the rest of A2STEAM to bring awareness to the issue. The school voted for the animal most in need of help by using a Google survey. Students then made paper elephants and re-purposed crayons to sell to raise about $150 to donate to the World Wildlife Foundation to adopt the elephants.

“Having the technology at our fingertips,” said Stidhams, “made the project so engaging for students and helped a great cause too.”

Chromebooks are also well represented now throughout AAPS, with every elementary receiving one cart, every middle receiving three carts, and every high school, eight carts.

“The Chromebooks are great because they really utilize the Google apps for Education Suite, and anything they start on the Chromebook can then be moved over to the iPad or laptop and desktop,” said Colligan, “It also allows any web browsing or web tools that the classroom may use to research or systems for basic skills practice. Any of the creation apps on the web can be done on the Chromebook as well.”

MacBook Airs were also among the new purchases.

“We’ve been a Mac district for a very long time, and we continue to love our Mac products, but we need to make sure we have diverse options for our students so they can be learning for any of the 21st Century jobs they may have and be able to transfer those skills,” said Colligan. “So we have the Airs to meet the high-end computing needs of students, whether that be desktop publishing or video editing that goes beyond the capabilities on the iPad or Chromebook.”

In a Pioneer German class, students use BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) technology to learn on their smart phones.
In a Pioneer German class, students use BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) technology to learn on their smart phones.

The district has refreshed its network storage and back-up systems to allow plenty of file storage for students moving forward.

“The biggest deal is that we’re moving away from technology that’s 10 to 12 years old in the classrooms to technology that can really move around, and kids can really be in learning environments that are mobile anytime, anywhere—rather than having to be in a computer lab or attached to a wall.”

So what’s happened to the outdated equipment? The 12-year e-Macs are being recycled. Everything else has been placed in second-tier places for basic computing needs.

The next phase will be an update of the soundfield system that teachers wear around their necks to make sure every student can hear them.

“And it’s really good for the teacher to maintain their voice long-term,” she said.

“I’m very excited that we have the opportunity to prepare our students for their future careers through learning communication and collaboration skills on today’s technology instead of trying to teach them skills on outdated technology,” said Colligan. “And we couldn’t do that without the support of our public, and our community through the bond.



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