Teamwork Takes This Texas District’s 1:1 Program to the Next Level

Ellen Ullman

It’s been several years since we first profiled Klein ISD’s one-to-one program. In this update we look at what’s happened over eight years in this pioneering district.

Covering an area of 88 square miles, the Klein Independent School District (KISD), located just north of Houston, is Texas-sized and growing. Last year, in fact, it grew by 800 students.

Successful bond elections in 2004 and 2008 included sizable funds for technology that enabled the establishment of a 1:1 laptop program and a solid infrastructure. The 2004 bond funds allowed KISD to plan for mobile computers in all high schools and one intermediate school. The successful 2008 bond election assured that the 1:1 program supported district growth as well as technology replacement.

Bond money also helped fund computer labs, software for career and technology education and fine arts, graphing calculators, and science probes. If successful, the next bond, which goes before the voters in May 2015, will be used for facilities, transportation, technology, and security.

Building the Infrastructure

Before its 1:1 implementation, KISD established an enviable baseline of technology for schools and classrooms, along with a robust wireless infrastructure. Each K-12 core content classroom has an interactive whiteboard, a projector, a document camera, a student response/assessment system, teacher presentation system, and four networked student computer workstations. The district-wide network infrastructure supports wireless computer access, file storage, wired and wireless telephones, the student information system, printers and an automated library infrastructure. Replacement computers are also incorporated into the district’s overall technology plan.

According to KISD’s chief technology officer, Karen Fuller, the district chose Intel-based tablet PCs for its one-to-one program rather than standard laptops because of their pen technology. “We wanted to be able to use the devices in all areas, including math and science, and the stylus/pen provided that capability,” says Klein. 

In 2006, the first Klein students to receive tablets were the 150 students enrolled in a new program that opened that year—the Vistas High School Program. The following year, the 1:1 program expanded to Krimmel Intermediate School. Teachers at one of the four high schools also received tablets in 2007, and the following year the 3,500 students at that high school got their tablets. In 2009, another high school received tablets, and by 2013, all four high schools were completely 1:1.

The district weighed a number of factors in determining which tablets to buy – including cost, the receptivity of the stylus, and battery capacity. The one-to-one program currently uses a mix of HP convertible tablets and some newer Fujitsu convertibles purchased by one high school this year.

Students Create Content

Klein’s 1:1 program began with a vision that tablets could change the culture of learning, both in the classrooms and at home. The district is also committed to allowing students to be producers and creators—not just consumers—of digital content.

Teachers use DyKnow monitoring software for communication and collaboration, and everyone uses the Blackboard learning management system (LMS) for digital instruction. Best of all, the tablets help students understand difficult topics, such as reading topography maps. When eighth-grade science students maneuvered these images with their stylus and Google SketchUp, the 3D models made sense.

Even students in choir benefit from 24/7 access to their tablets. They practice their vocals independently by viewing lyrics streaming across their screen, with breaths and pauses marked, using an application created by the students from simple software. They also use recording software to identify their beginning pitch, and then turn in their best practice recording to their teacher via the LMS.

Thoughtful and Collaborative Professional Learning

By issuing computers to teachers one year before the students, Klein provided ample opportunity for educators to become comfortable with the technology and plan for its effective use in their classrooms. Teachers began with basic training to learn the how to use all components of the tablets, and then attended sessions on mastering the basic software applications. Next, they worked on how to leverage the technology to meet specific curriculum objectives by participating in online as well as face-to-face professional development. Working in professional learning communities, teacher training evolved into job-embedded learning.

Each 1:1 school has at least one full-time campus instructional technology specialist (two in each high school and one in the middle school). In addition, some teachers emerge as instructional leaders and welcome colleagues into their classrooms for observation. Regular meetings between the 1:1 administrative teams at the different schools also ensure that all leaders share lessons to provide for future smooth implementations. Klein has learned that collaboration on all fronts is the key to its digital success.

This year marks Klein’s eighth year of 1:1 and the approaches taken to collaboration and PD continue to evolve. For example, after reevaluating how to strenthen the connections between technology and instruction, KISD merged its district-level education technology team with the instructional department, taking people from ed-tech and putting them into each of the major subject areas. Now, curriculum experts and technology experts work together.

“This integration has strengthened our instructional department,” says Susan Borg, associate superintendent for instruction and student services. “Staff development is our top priority but it is focused around curriculum. We’ll tell teachers, ‘Here are some tools that will help you teach this curriculum’ and then we’ll show them how to use them.” Most of the curriculum is digital, and teachers handle everything through the LMS.

Future Plans

Two years ago, the district formed the long-range tech planning committee (LRTP). Comprised of 25 representatives from every department in the district, it meets monthly to discuss technology so that everyone knows where the district is at and where it wants to go. The LRTP houses both a change committee and an R&D committee, so when a new idea comes up the R&D team can research it for viability and the change team can put together a communication plan. “This committee helps us show what the community has enabled us to get with bond funds, and it keeps everyone informed and involved,” says Fuller, who co-chairs the LRTP with Borg.

KISD was one of 23 districts chosen to be part of the Texas High-Performing Schools Consortium and to explore a variety of areas of learning. “We chose one elementary, our 1:1 intermediate, and one of our 1:1 high schools to evaluate themselves against the matrix in a document called Creating a New Vision for Public Education in Texas ,” says Borg. “Then they chose areas they needed to expand or improve upon.”

The LRTP collaborated to start several pilot programs – involving tablets, Chromebooks and BYOD – to investigate how different types of technology and projects would affect student learning and student outcomes. The LRTP will examine how these pilots affect the infrastructure, make sure there are resources available for students, and inform the community of the outcomes.

This fall, the district is also starting a Transformation Academy, for which 50 tech-savvy teachers and 10 tech-savvy principals have volunteered to research and collaborate with other districts to come up with new pilots involving devices and/or strategies. “It could mean using current equipment in a new way, using a new device, or rearranging classrooms or grade levels,” says Borg. “We want them to think big. We have to take risks and try new things to engage our students and see the outcomes.”

Both Fuller and Borg believe that having a standardized device for so many years helped teachers become confident enough to not be afraid to try new devices or methods. “The way we began and continued gave us a good basis for jumping off into this next endeavor,” says Borg. “We want them to try new things and hopefully succeed, then tell others and spread the good work.”

At A Glance: 

There are 48,700 students in 45 schools and the district is growing rapidly (by 800 students last year). KISD is opening a new elementary campus in 2014 and hopefully a new high school in 2017.

There are 9 Title I schools and 40% of students qualify for free/reduced lunch.

Infrastructure: 

All four high schools are 1:1 with HP or Fujitso convertible tablets – along with DyKnow software, Blackboard, a suite of standard software productivity tools, wireless access to networked applications from school and home, and cases or hard sleeves for transporting the tablets. In addition, there are 2 networked HP desktops in each class in case a tablet is in repair.

Elementary and most intermediate grade classrooms have networked student workstations and laptop carts.

Each core content classroom is equipped with 2-4 networked HP or Lenovo student workstations.

All classrooms also have: Hitachi Starboard interactive whiteboard, eInstruction Classroom Performance System, Toshiba or Lumens document camera, and a Hitachi or Toshiba Projector.

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