How Pasadena ISD Adjusted Their Device Deployment to Better Serve Students During School Closures
When Pasadena Independent School District (PISD) launched their first device deployment in 2014, they realized they had a disconnect between the technology and the curriculum. Karen Hickman, Deputy Superintendent of Academic Achievement, will be the first to tell you that it didn’t go off without a hitch. But as they move into their sixth year of devices for students – in the midst of a pandemic – the blended learning model they’ve been iterating on for years is “definitely in lock-step now.”
Though the school district was well on their way to 1:1 learning before COVID-19, it was the pandemic that gave them the push to close the gap for all of their 4th-12th grade students. They’re now exploring expanding all of the way down to Pre-K.
HOW TO PROCURE AND DEPLOY DEVICES DURING COVID-19
PISD is a large, suburban school district with over 52,000 students, 86% of which qualify for free and reduced lunches. At the start of COVID-19 school closures, with the exception of three of their high schools (which were still cart schools), all 5th-12th graders had 1:1 access to devices. That’s over 38,000 devices.
But they needed more for remote learning. The first week of the school shutdown, the board approved an additional $2.1M of funding, and the school district also received an additional $1.6M from the State’s Instructional Materials Allotment.
With most of the funding they needed secured, their biggest challenge was supply chain delays. Assistant Director of Technical Services Michael Marler jokes that he would love to be a vendor right now. Limited device availability has meant long wait times of 6-12 weeks, having to make decisions fast, and being flexible. For example, some of their tough procurement decisions have been choosing between ideal devices (touch screens) or getting devices more quickly.
TRAINING TEACHERS, STUDENTS, AND FAMILIES FOR LEARNING WITH TECHNOLOGY
Before COVID-19, Marler and Hickman say technology-related professional development for teachers was underdeveloped. Moving forward, PISD will have professional development in place for all teachers over the summer. Teachers will use a guide to self-analyze, then they’ll spend 15-20 hours learning the LMS system, reporting, grading, feedback, and more.
But it’s not just technology they’ll be learning – teachers will also be learning best practices for remote learning, including relationship building. Their ultimate goal is for the same curriculum and digital tools to be used online as face-to-face in the classroom setting.
Hickman also stresses the importance of training not just for teachers, but for students and parents as well. At the start of the upcoming school year, they’ll focus on rolling out data tools for students to use. They hope to be able to have in-person classes at least for two weeks to get students comfortable with using devices at home and so that they can seamlessly pivot between remote learning and traditional classroom learning.
In the meantime, students will keep their devices over the summer to help prevent learning gaps. Over 5,000 students have continued their virtual work in the summer to complete courses and to take initial credit courses.The school district is hosting virtual academic competitions for every grade. Overall, they say the technology adoption has been incredible to watch.
ADVICE FOR SCHOOL DISTRICTS
- Policies can be adjusted.
Kids are kids. They’re going to peel letters off keyboards and lose and break devices. At PISD, they adjusted their policies related to lost and broken devices. “When they lose a device, we still have to let them have a device,” says Marler.
- Recommendation: Device Policy Guidelines for Schools
- Focus on mitigation.
Historically, PISD sees a big spike in device issues over breaks. Now that students are keeping their devices over the summer, it’s more important than ever to teach them how to treat their devices well. [more context?]
- Recommendation: Efficient Break-Fix & Replacement Procedures
- Aim for 120% capacity.
There are so many contingencies to plan for: broken devices, lost chargers, supply shortages. It’s important to have a backup plan. Marler says if you order 10k Chromebooks, order an extra 1k chargers. For example, they recently procured an additional 19,000 cases, and his team is working hard to repair devices so that they’re prepared for every student to have a device and the accessories they need to operate and protect those devices.
- Recommendation: Needs Assessment
To start lending digital devices for home use, visit our Device Toolkit.