Updated classroom resources and a one-to-one technology program will be coming to Little Miami High School next year after the Board of Education approved a measure at their recent meeting on March 28.
The Board voted 4-1 to purchase new digital curriculum resources and computer devices for all high school students to create a “blended” learning environment beginning in the 2017-2018 school year.
This means that a student will have use of a traditional textbook that can be checked out of a classroom set, plus access to an e-textbook and additional resources online. Students will be able to access these online resources through a district-provided computer device.
During Little Miami’s 2015 levy campaign, the Board stated in a letter to families that textbooks and other learning resources at the high school were outdated and deteriorating. Administrators had begun researching the cost and suitability of a blended learning option versus remaining with traditional textbooks. Either way, the condition of existing resources was going to necessitate a purchase of new items.
Since last October, teams of high school teachers in the four core subjects (science, math, English language arts and social studies) were tasked with interviewing vendors, reviewing the products they offered and teaching sample lessons in their classrooms to see what best suited Little Miami students.
Veteran high school teachers Brent Fruhwirth (social studies), Jen Lyke (English language arts), Stephanie Woodruff (math) and Sarah Anspach (science) were on the review teams and attended the March 28 meeting. Each told the Board they appreciated the fact that digital resources could be updated in real time, while traditional textbooks would soon become outdated again. Also, while reviewing the new curriculum, each teacher said they had an “a-ha moment” about their own work in the classroom, including Lyke, who said some of her students are using textbooks published in 1999.
“The question came up of how do you think you are doing [in the classroom], and we [teachers] think we are doing okay. But then we took a look at these resources and we were shocked,” she said. “We couldn’t believe the difference in the rigor. How much can Shakespeare change? Shakespeare doesn’t change. But the depth of the questions that these resources were asking of students was incredible.”
Fruhwirth said he agreed.
“We understand that we are to be teaching 21st century skills and we are charged with that. But we realized that, after looking at these new resources, we are falling short of that,” he said.
After reviewing both the traditional textbook option and the blended option, the Board voted to approve the blended option, which includes a vendor-provided classroom set of new textbooks for each teacher in the four core subjects, plus a six-year digital license for each student at a cost of $350,683. The Board also approved the purchase of 1,456 computer devices (a Lenovo N24 Chromebook or similar device) at a cost of $464,464.
For social studies, the review team selected McGraw Hill products; for English language arts, Pearson; for math, Pearson. For science, the team selected a Pearson product for life science and a McGraw Hill product for physical science.
Board president Randy Haas cast the dissenting vote. At the meeting, Haas said he liked the idea of new resources, but said he did not like the cost.
Superintendent Greg Power said the district is continuing to develop possible options for students to lease or purchase the computer devices if so desired, and/or a nominal student tech fee. The district already has a bring-your-own-device policy in place for students who would wish to access the new online resources on their own device.
“I want to express my appreciation for the Board’s support of our students and teachers in approving the new resources,” Power said. “I am thankful for their willingness to move our learning community forward with thoughtful and reflective dialogue and vision.”