Technology shapes learning for Battle Ground students

May 18, 2017 Joe Vajgrt

Technology shapes learning for battle ground students

May 18, 2017

When students take their seats in Pleasant Valley Middle School teacher Tyler Tugaw’s class, the first thing they do is open their computers and begin typing. A casual observer might assume that this class is focused on technology or computer skills, but a pilot program for Battle Ground Public Schools’ one-to-one computer initiative has reshaped how seventh graders study nearly every subject, including English language arts (ELA).

In January, Battle Ground launched a 1:1 (one-to-one) computing initiative to put a Chromebook into the hands of every student in grades 3-12 for use at school and at home. The initiative will be rolled out over the next few years, beginning with seventh and eighth graders in the fall. Seventh graders at Pleasant Valley, Tukes Valley and Amboy middle schools were selected to participate in a pilot program this semester. Because students check out the devices to use both at school and at home, teachers have the opportunity to integrate them into their daily lessons.

The students in Tugaw’s ELA class know that each day they will write something. Indeed, on a daily basis, Tugaw assigns his seventh graders a writing task that requires them to edit and revise their compositions and provide feedback to their peers. It's true that writing is a regular part of the typical ELA class, but having access to personal computers is changing the way students approach their learning.

Tugaw says that since the launch of the 1:1 computing initiative, his students have taken much more ownership of their learning and applied more effort, maturity, and personal responsibility to their academics. “On a far more regular, almost daily basis, students are putting in effort at home to complete homework, missing and late assignments, and project work that is not getting done in class,” Tugaw said. “Several times a week I receive emails from students notifying me about assignments they have turned in, or asking questions about an assignment they’re missing while at home sick.”

The one-to-one initiative also allows for more collaboration between students, both in the classroom and at home. While in the classroom, students can easily share their work and collaborate, either by sharing a document or reading and commenting on blog posts of their peers to provide constructive feedback. Collaboration on assignments is also happening outside the classroom. “Students are emailing their peers to discuss assignments and provide assistance to one another, which wasn’t as often the case before the students were assigned their own Chromebooks,” Tugaw said.

The opportunities for collaboration aren’t just limited to student interactions. Amboy Middle School history teacher Fiona Engebretson used the technology to connect her classroom with experts all around the world. In early April, Engebretson organized a Google Hangouts video conference with medieval scholar Lydia Fleming, who is currently wrapping up her Ph.D. at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Engebretson's students submitted questions about the role of women in medieval history, then Engebretson picked 10 questions for her students to ask Fleming during the live video conference on the Chromebooks.  

“This is a great teaching tool, and the face time with an expert really kept the students engaged and helped bring the topic to life,” Engebretson said. “Providing our students with equal access to technology opens up incredible new learning opportunities for them.” Based on the success of this project, Engebretson is planning more Google Hangouts.

Tugaw agrees that the one-to-one initiative is helping to keep students engaged. “It is my goal that all of my students learn to read and write well independently, conduct their own research, and be inquisitive about our world as a whole, all while providing them skills that will help them be successful in the twenty-first century,” Tugaw said. “The one-to-one initiative has been instrumental in helping to achieve all of these classroom goals.”

"These teachers are demonstrating activities that the 1:1 initiative will bring to all students,"  said Scott McDaniel, the district’s director of technology. “Great things are happening in our classrooms, and I’m really proud of the work our teachers and students have put into this program.”

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