1Two1 in Richland County School District Two

Ellen Ullman

With almost 50 percent of families in this 27,000-student district qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch, equity of access was an important driver for going one-to-one in South Carolina’s Richland County School District Two. The district also wanted to see an increase in student engagement and learning, including the development of 21st-century skills such as the “4 Cs” (Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Creativity).

From its first one-to-one classroom in 2000, Richland Two has approached technology integration in a thoughtful, well-organized manner, expanding slowly and using what it learns to inform the next iteration. In 2009, administrators identified 20 teachers and technology coaches and worked with them on instructional strategies for about 120 hours over two years. As a group, they learned how to create authentic, technology-rich, collaborative projects. “It was so helpful to have successful small pilots before taking our 1TWO1 district-wide,” says Donna Teuber, Richland Two’s team leader for technology integration.

Today, grades 3 through 12 are 1TWO1. Students at the award-winning district collaborate on problem- and project-based activities to develop the skills to prepare them for a future their teachers can only imagine. “1TWO1 is not just a matter of putting computers in schools—it is about making a difference in learning,” says Teuber. “We believe technology has a particular value in personalizing learning, making learning authentic, and fostering collaboration.”

Behind the Scenes: Planning Was Crucial

In the spring of 2011, as the district looked to expand its 1TWO1 district-wide, Teuber formed an implementation committee. She invited technology and academic leaders, administrators, teachers, parents, and students for an intensive two-day brainstorming session at which the group defined its goals. Next came site visits. “We sent people to different schools to really figure out why we were doing this,” says Teuber. “We spent a year mapping it out, making sure all our departments were on the same page.”

The committee determined that it wanted the following things:

  • Equity of access, or for every student at every school to have technology;
  • For technology to improve student achievement and increase student engagement;
  • For teachers to use technology to do project-based learning and teach 21st-century skills.

During this time, the technology staff upgraded infrastructure so that there would be plenty of bandwidth and access to support the influx of devices.

Only after coming up with its goals did the committee talk about devices. “We saved it for the end,” Teuber says. “It was hard to do that but we knew it was the best way to get buy in.” They interviewed teachers who had done 1TWO1 pilots, gathered feedback from the technology staff on battery life and other issues, and used what they learned to bring in a handful of devices. They invited teams from every school to look at the devices, see how they rated, and ask questions. Nearly everyone chose Chromebooks.

Why Chromebooks?

Richland Two needed devices that would allow students to create, communicate, research, and collaborate using Google Apps for Education, Web 2.0, and multimedia tools. Students had to be able to create videos, podcasts, and blogs; share files; communicate; and send emails. The district found hundreds of reasons for selecting Chromebooks. “For starters,” says senior system engineer Tommy Carter, “most of our applications are web-based. Even with a traditional laptop, students spend most of their time in a web browser. With options as low as $250 per unit, the Chromebooks are an affordable choice and far more productive than consumer-oriented tablets.”

Chromebooks let users boot up and log in quickly. They are self-maintaining and end-user resettable since there is no local personality or data to worry about. Users can move from one device to another nearly instantly. Best of all, “the IT staff doesn’t have to image the units,” says Carter. “It’s a true, zero-touch deployment.”

Carter has an equally long list of reasons for choosing Intel-based models—beginning with the older Intel-based Samsung Chromebooks and then moving to Lenovo X131E. The district sees the devices as offering real-world results, a better end-user experience, and the likelihood of a longer useful life as performance demands increase. New Haswell battery options offer a great balance of performance and battery consumption, so tasks are finished more quickly, which extends battery life further and allows students to move on to other activities. In addition, Lenovo’s Intel-based options include removable/replaceable batteries, and the Intel environment is long-standing and mature, with the widest deployment across operating systems.

“Intel is the trusted partner of choice with the companies that produce the products that we want,” says Carter.

A Slow and Deliberate Rollout Procedure

The steering committee felt it would be wise to roll out in phases, starting with pilots in about 10 classes. An evaluation team went to the classes, conducted research, and worked through bugs so that the process continually improved.

For phase 1, they went 1TWO1 in grades 5 and 6 and put Chromebook carts into one-third of the classes at the high schools. Gradually, as more high schools got Chromebook carts, the phase 1 teachers were able to coach and mentor them, making it a smoother process in terms of buy in. They continued, slowly, to add grades and schools, with the entire process taking one-and-a-half years. “You want to figure out the best method for rollout so people are comfortable,” says Teuber. “The phased approach worked well for us. If you roll out to everyone at once you have to do staff development really quickly and teachers are thrown in without having time to ease into it.”

Richland Two’s technology and learning coaches had staff development before roll out so they could prepare teachers, and teachers received devices four months before students so they had ongoing professional development. According to Teuber, teachers really appreciated the ongoing learning and collaboration time.

While doing planning and rollout, various subcommittees continued working on different pieces, including a digital resource selection committee, a policies/procedures committee, a professional development committee, a parent advisory group, and a tech advisory board. The parent advisory group, made up of parents from every school, created a parent handbook. As different needs came up, they formed task forces to address them. “As you grow, you realize, ‘We need to pay attention to this now,’” says Teuber.

Impressive Results Are Already Coming to the Forefront

With the rollout completed in the fall of 2013, there are now 22,500 Chromebooks in use by Richland Two teachers and students. Already, the district has seen positive results. “From the beginning we’ve had an evaluation team from the University of South Carolina working with us. Our superintendent, Dr. Hamm, wanted to bring them in to make sure we were effectively measuring the outcomes.” The evaluation team spent days training Richland Two leaders on how to handle classroom observations, survey stakeholders, and host focus groups.

“We compared non-1TWO1 middle school students with 1TWO1 [middle schoolers] and have seen a significant increase in engagement as measured by persistence, future aspirations, dedication, study habits, and interest in learning,” says Teuber. Many teachers have moved from Substitution—the first level of the SAMR model—and into Augmentation and Modification. “This year will be our digital leap year, in which teachers leap into the Modification and Redefinition levels,” says Teuber.

Additional data gathered through surveys, classroom observations, and focus groups found that:

  • 88.6% of teachers say classroom management has been easier or the same as before.
  • 65% of classes were using the devices during unannounced observations, with no infrastructure issues.
  • Teachers have expressed a high level of satisfaction with the professional development offered by their schools and are asking for more personalized options.
  • Richland Two students who took Learning.com’s 21st-Century Skills Assessment (www.learning.com/21st-century-skills-assessment) scored above the global average.

Not too surprisingly, Richland Two has received a number of honors over the years, including selection as a Project RED Signature District, a CoSN Teaming for Transformation District, part of Digital Promise’s League of Innovative Schools, and a winner of AASA’s President’s Award for Excellence in Technology. Recently, the district won the ISTE Sylvia Charp Award for District Innovation in Technology.

 
At A Glance: 

27,000 students K-12

49% free/reduced lunch

Honors include:

  • Project RED Signature District
  • 2014 ISTE Sylvia Charp Award for District Innovation in Technology
  • CoSN Teaming for Transformation District
  • 2007 NSBA National Site Visit Host
  • Recipient of the SC EdTech 2012 District TIPS Award
  • AASA’s President’s Award for Excellence in Technology
Infrastructure: 

22,500 Chromebooks are being used for 1TWO1 in grades 3-12. 21,000 are Lenovo X131E Chromebooks; the rest are older Intel-based Samsung models.

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