As a teacher in the West Allis West Milwaukee School District, we knew education needed to evolve because our students — and the world that we are preparing them for — is changing so rapidly. In fact, the need was so great that it was no longer enough for us to think outside the box. We needed to build a completely new one.
Born from a new way of thinking about our students and their needs was the Next Generation Learning Community (NxGLC), a personalized approach to learning. Since 2010, we have created a one-to-one mobile learning environment that is customizable to meet each student’s individual needs. The initiative engages today’s learners in a rigorous curriculum that is paced to individual learning needs and tailored to the specific interests and learning styles of our students.
As a result of our work, our students are scoring significantly higher on standardized tests than their peers around the district. In the first year, NxGLC students scored 12 percent higher in reading and 13 percent higher in math. Second year students scored 34 percent higher in reading and 29 percent higher in math. We are going into the third year of our program and the response from parents continues to be overwhelming. Each year, we have a waiting list of students whose parents want them to participate in this cutting-edge learning opportunity that puts their child’s needs, interests, and learning styles at the center.
Lessons we’ve learned
Implementing a successful mobile learning program isn’t easy. So, if I had to impart just four pieces of wisdom on my fellow educators, this would be it:
1. Ongoing communication is key.
Talk to parents. Mobile technology is just as much (if not more) part of students’ lives when they are home. Talk to other educators. Learn from their struggles and successes.
2. Don’t try to do it all at once.
Work on implementing one piece of the puzzle at a time. And believe me, no one ever has all the answers. In our model, teachers and students are learning alongside each other.
3. Provide professional development.
Don’t expect your staff to be able to do “everything.” Help them along the way.
4. Talk to the students.
They know what works well with technology and what does not. Give them a voice to be heard.
None of this would be possible without fast, reliable access to the internet. Having the right connection is even more critical to today’s learning environment than a chalkboard or physical books. We are working with AT&T to make sure that we have the bandwidth we need to make these initiatives a reality. AT&T Ethernet breaks down classroom walls enabling innovative and current information to be accessed worldwide.
Stacey Lange is the Academic Dean at Walker Elementary School. She has written this guest post for the Networking Exchange Blog.