The Keys to One-to-One Success in East Noble, Indiana

Judy Salpeter

In the fall of 2010, East Noble School Corporation (ENSC) began planning for a comprehensive 1:1 initiative with the intent of dramatically changing teaching and learning in the district.  

“The idea of incorporating technology into the classroom wasn’t new to us,” says East Noble superintendent, Ann Linson. “Our elementary schools had had computers in them since the early days. But they were scattered in different classrooms and labs and they weren’t being used very often. When we surveyed the teachers about this, they said it would be more feasible – and more impactful – to incorporate the technology if it were more readily available.”

Thus began a year-long process that led from visioning and researching to full deployment of one-to-one in several grades by the fall of 2011. With encouragement from the Board of Education, the East Noble technology department made upgrades to the infrastructure in all eight school buildings and central office and evaluated a variety of devices before finally deciding on iPods for K-1 students, iPads for 2nd through 4th grade students, and Lenovo Thinkpad Edge laptops for grades 5-12.  

“Since then we’ve replaced the iPods with iPads in the younger grades,” says Linson, “but once the students hit 5th grade, we are convinced that Windows is the way to go. There’s more software and web sites that run under Windows and it shifts the focus from consumption to productivity.”

Unlike a number of other districts, ENSC hasn’t been tempted to adopt Chromebooks for their one-to-one program. “They might be cheaper,” Linson explains, “but we’ve been really happy with the Lenovo laptops and don’t want to restrict our students and staff members unnecessarily. We’ve chosen to emulate the real world.”

The latest device purchases have been Lenovo Yoga models with touch screens. Teachers and students are enthusiastic about the flexibility these models offer and Linson reports that the technology department has confidence in Lenovo. “They’re very supportive and accommodating with repairs and listen to our input about elements that could be changed.”

Shifting to Digital Content

During the initial planning year, six teams – each made up of administrators, teachers, technology staff, and parents -- were created to focus on:

  • Professional Development;
  • Curriculum;
  • Policies and Procedures;
  • Distribution and Orientation;
  • Public Relations; and
  • Options.

In order to further communication and ensure a coherent program, several people served on more than one committee and the technology director served on all of them.

One of main areas the teams agreed to focus on was the shift from textbooks to digital content. “We did not get rid of books entirely,” says Linson, “but we only continued to buy novels and textbooks that were required for AP classes.” East Noble has adopted Canvas as their learning management system. They subscribe to some content – BrainPOP and Big Universe in the elementary grades, for example – and tap into content licensed by the state of Indiana, but the bulk of the digital curriculum is created in-house.

According to Linson, “It was hard at first but, with help from a great curriculum director, teachers learned how to support the standards with digital content and discovered that what’s out there on the Internet is so much broader and deeper than what they can get from a textbook; textbooks usually just skim the surface.”

Technology coaches at each of the schools help with this process and collaboration is encouraged through meetings and planning periods where teachers share what’s working for them. The resulting learning environment is described as follows at the district web site:

"When walking into a classroom, you will see students working in small groups, listening to instruction in a traditional manner, collaborating on projects, investigating content of interest, reading, writing, using video, and many other instructional techniques with and without the use of a technology tool. Teachers are engaging students in lessons that are rigorous, relevant, and prepare them for a successful future."

The Keys to Success

East Noble School Corporation has been recognized as a Project RED Signature District and many educators visit each year to see an exemplary one-to-one program in action.  Linson summarizes some of the most important things she hopes these visitors take away from the experience.

  • Professional Development is Crucial:  “When we entered 1:1, it was fast and furious,” she says. “We didn't wait for buy-in from everybody. If you’re going to jump in that quickly, professional development is critical.” The only grant that East Noble used for the initial implementation phase focused on PD., making it possible to hire instructional coaches for all the schools. District leaders quickly realized how essential the coaches were. “They drive what’s happening, model teaching with technology, and help to create and vet content,” says Linson. “When the grant ended, the coaches were added into the regular budget since we couldn’t do it without them. When other districts come to visit, that’s the first thing we tell them – ‘invest in coaches!’”
  • Help Teachers See They Don’t Have to Know Everything: Linson finds that teachers who are new to technology in the classroom frequently believe they need to be tech experts before they can use the devices for instruction. “We reassure them that it’s ok if the students know more than you do. After all, we want the students to drive their own learning. Your role is to be a facilitator.
  • Let Students Take the Devices Home: Students at all grade levels are allowed to take the technology home with them at night to allow for 24/7 learning – and make it easy for them to stay connected if they have to miss school. There was a bit more concern about how to handle the devices over the summer but it was decided that students in grades five and up would be allowed to take their laptops home for the entire summer. In fact, once a student is issued a new Windows laptop (in grade 5 and again in grade 9) it remains theirs for four years. Many of the students take summer school classes online or use the computers to prep for classes in the fall.
  • Focus on Digital Citizenship: “We have some restrictions on YouTube usage and other things but we try not to block too much,” says Linson. The district emphasizes digital citizenship since “it’s important for students to learn about digital safety and responsibility in a school environment, with support, rather than waiting to learn on their own later.
  • Don’t Worry Too Much About Test Scores: While East Noble administrators are always looking for accurate ways to measure their progress, they don’t get hung up on test scores. “The state keeps changing its tests which makes it practically impossible to measure improvement from year to year. Our real focus is on lifelong learning and educating the whole child. We see the results in improved graduation rates and anecdotal evidence – through surveys and conversations. We’ve gotten feedback from parents who were originally opposed to the technology and now are grateful. Creativity is flourishing!”
At A Glance: 

The East Noble School Corporation serves the four rural townships of Orange, Wayne, Allen, and Swan in northeastern Indiana.

There are approximately 3700 students, Pre-K-12, and eight schools (five K-6 schools, one 7-8 middle school, one high school, and a small alternative school.)

East Noble is a Project RED Signature District and a member of the League of Innovative Schools.

Superintendent Ann Linson was chosen by NSBA in 2012-3013 as one of  “20 to watch” and selected to attend the Future Ready Superintendent summit at the White House in November of 2014.

In the years since initiating its 1:1 program, the district’s graduation rate has risen from a little more than 80% to over 92%

Infrastructure: 

The entire district is 1:1.

K-4 students work with iOS devices and students in grades 5-12 with Windows laptops from Lenovo.

The Lenovo models include ThinkPads and Yogas with touch screens.

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