Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Throughout this school year, we have heard positive stories from across Idaho of how Students Come First is aiding Idaho’s teachers and helping change our schools into more innovative and flexible places for staff and students, especially through technology.

As part of Students Come First, the state distributed $9 million this year to help Idaho schools integrate advanced technology and other 21st century tools in classrooms across all grades. This funding will be ongoing next year and in future years. Each district had to submit a plan to the state on how they would use this funding to raise student achievement.

The state also is funding $3 million a year in ongoing funding for professional development for teachers to help integrate this technology into the curriculum.

All this funding is in addition to the rollout of the one-to-one laptop devices that will begin this fall with high school teachers and principals and continue next year with the deployment to students in the first one-third of high schools across the state. 

Just this week, we received the following e-mail from Cindy Orr, the superintendent of the Highland School District. She describes the positive impact this new technology is having in Highland, a small, rural district about an outside of Lewiston.

Dear Superintendent Luna,

I wanted to share with you the success we are all ready having with our iPad project. Three weeks ago, we handed out our iPads to every certified and paraprofessional in our district. They were to spend the next five months (last two months of school and summer) learning about the iPad. I told them I expected the teachers to take them to every staff meeting and inservice. They are to take them home and use them. Take pictures and videos with them. Read a summer novel. Surf the net. Use it however you want with the expectation to share what you have learned.

On April 23, the staff members took them to their first inservice. It was an inservice that was mainly a review of knowledge. The teachers were using them by trying to learn how to use them in this setting. They checked email, worked on their calendar, etc. However, on Friday, April 27, at the CCSS/MTI conference, the teachers used it as a tool. When the presenter used a term he or she did not understand, the teacher looked it up. When the presenter talked about a website, the teachers checked it out. When they were to solve a problem, they used the tools on the iPad to solve the math problem. I stopped them and said, "this is how your students will use these tools." Lightbulbs went off! Now, I rarely see a staff member without his or her iPad.

One week later, I was walking down the hall and two paras were sharing the latest apps they downloaded for a kindergartener. Another was on the floor with a student using the iPad to practice the alphabet. Teachers are asking for more staff meetings to learn from one another.

I have been in education for over 20 years. I have never seen an initiative create such a positive and exciting atmosphere. It has been a huge morale booster. I figured a couple would sit in the box and others would never see the students. I observed a teacher using the iPad as part of her lesson, and she only had one. She said, "I cannot wait until we get a class set!"

We were excited to receive the Professional Development Grant to continue this initiative. I am currently seeking other grants so that we can speed up the process.

We are not the most innovative or techie, but we actually feel like we are leading our region for the first time. It is very exciting!

Thank you for supporting our program. I thought you might like to hear how things are going.

Have a great Tuesday!

Cindy Orr, Superintendent/Elementary Principal
Highland School District #305

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