As a teacher at one of the HISD’s 11 pilot PowerUp schools, Mariela Niland is working to include more technology in her classroom at the Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy. Recently, the first-year teacher took part in a unique training that had her and her students swap roles to learn more about the latest and greatest tech tools and web applications. “I want to hear from them what I can do to make my lessons more interesting,” said Niland. “I want to know what digital tools and resources they enjoy using.”
Niland and her YWCPA colleagues got an earful from students who were excited to take part in the table-turning after-school exercise. The format allowed the girls to become the teacher, show off their tech savvy, and share some of their favorite websites.
Almost 19,000 HISD students are receiving laptops this month as part of the district’s one-to-one initiative that will eventually give every high school student a computer. The initiative – PowerUp – will not only give students 24-hour access to a laptop and a variety of software but to digital-age instruction that will transform teaching and learning both inside and outside the classroom.
“PowerUp is not about the device,” said Superintendent Terry Grier. “This is about creating anytime-anywhere learning for our students so they can have the world at their fingertips. We want to make sure they learn skills that complement technology so they won’t be replaced by technology.”
HISD’s implementation of the PowerUp one-to-one laptop initiative is getting rave reviews from a North Carolina school district which successfully implemented a similar program six years ago. A team of educators from the Mooresville Graded School District recently visited classrooms at three HISD campuses which distributed student laptops in October.
“One of the things we were very impressed with was the rather extensive use of laptops for instruction in the classrooms,” said Steve Mauney, executive director for secondary instruction at the Mooresville Graded School District. “That is something we didn’t expect to see at the schools only two months after deployment.”
To familiarize them with life on the campus of a select school, HISD’s EMERGE program took a group of rising seniors on a tour of northeast campuses over the summer. Here, they’re at Harvard University.
The acceptance letters for select colleges and universities are rolling in for HISD seniors working with the district’s EMERGE program – 22 letters so far, as of Dec. 18. On Dec. 16 alone, three HISD seniors were notified they had been accepted to Yale University.
All students are either receiving full rides or are having 100 percent of their financial need met by the school accepting them, according to Rick Cruz, assistant superintendent of college readiness and co-founder of EMERGE.
HISD is partnering with Discovery Education, a branch of the media company Discovery Communications, as the district begins its journey to transform all classrooms into 21st century learning environments. Principals, assistant principals, and deans from the PowerUp one-to-one campuses recently attended a hands-on workshop with Discovery Education to explore some of the digital content and interactive lessons that teachers and students will have access to as part of the district’s digital transformation.
Many tech-savvy people—including Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and HISD’s own Adam Stephens—believe that in the not-too-distant future, knowing how to create computer code will be considered as basic a skill as knowing how to read, write, or perform basic math calculations.
That’s why students at several HISD campuses participated in a challenge issued by Code.org as a part of Computer Science Education Week.
HISD principals and administrators from the 11 high schools involved in the district’s PowerUp initiative now have a better understanding of what effective digital instruction looks like, thanks to a recent trip to Mooresville, N.C. The Mooresville Graded School District has had a one-to-one program in place for six years and is partnering with HISD to offer guidance and best practices as the district prepares to distribute more than 18,000 laptops to students next month.
In mid-November, PowerUp principals along with members of HISD’s High Schools Office, the Curriculum, and Professional Support and Development departments, spent several days inside Mooresville secondary classrooms observing teaching and learning using computers and digital technology. Principal Delesa Odell Thomas from the Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy found the trip was eye-opening.
Teachers at the schools involved in the district’s one-to-one initiative aren’t waiting until January, when nearly 18,000 students will be assigned their own laptops, to start using digital resources in their classrooms. Instead, many teachers at the 11 pilot schools in PowerUp are already integrating web 2.0 tools they have been learning at recent training sessions.
A thundering round of applause broke out at the Energy Institute High School this past week as nearly 200 students received their own laptops to use at school and at home as part of PowerUp, the district’s one-to-one laptop initiative.
‘’It was really touching and emotional for me to see these students get so excited as they were handed their computers,” said Instructional Technology Senior Manager Beatriz Arnillas. “This program is really going to change our students’ lives and prepare them for a successful future.”
Hundreds of HISD parents came out to the Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy on October 3 to learn more about digital citizenship and the district’s one-to-one laptop initiative. YWCPA is one of 11 HISD schools where students will be given laptops to use at home and at school as part of the PowerUp initiative.
“I really think is a great idea,” said YWCPA parent Charlotte Goins, who attended the meeting with her teenage daughter. “Students today need certain skills to succeed in the work force, and by using computers they can develop and sharpen these skills.”