Detroit schools expand tech effort in classrooms
Detroit — A one-on-one technology initiative that kicked off last fall is now fully operational at three schools in Detroit Public Schools Community District and is part of the district’s plan to spread the program to all 106 schools in the next five years.
Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said Tuesday the district used a $450,000 Michigan Department of Education grant to provide students and teachers at three schools with technology tools to improve student engagement, access to data on performance and individualized learning.
The grant purchased about 1,000 laptop computers, movable touch-screen monitors and other accessories at Bagley Elementary School of Journalism and Technology, Cooke STEM Academy and Nolan Elementary-Middle School.
Students will now have daily access to a laptop for literacy and math instruction, school officials said. The computers use a learning pathway program called iReady — designed to measure and improve grade-level performance in literacy and math — and other educational programs.
Teachers use interactive monitors in classrooms for whole-group and small-group instruction. The monitors allow teachers to project content on the screens and immediately manipulate the information, from numbers, words, paragraphs, images, and photos to enhance lessons, school officials said.
Vitti said no technology program or device can replace a teacher.
“However, we must do a better job of equipping our students and teachers with technology tools that can supplement core instruction and learning to accelerate the understanding and demonstration of skills and knowledge,” Vitti said. “Today, our students think through technology. The grant funds allow us to start somewhere as we rebuild our district while offering us a vision of what our schools will look like into the future.”
Vitti, who joined the district in May, said before the initiative, the device to student ratio was about 1:6 districtwide. The district plans to reduce the device to student ratio to 1:1 in five years.
Students can log in to iReady and other programs at home or wherever there is internet access. Vitti said he will offer families the opportunity to attend school on Saturdays and before and after school opportunities to use the laptops.
“We are going to communicate this more to parents as an opportunity. Most parents have devices, but sometimes internet access is an issue. That’s why Saturday school or before or after school is an opportunity,” Vitti said.
Dionne Garrett, a kindergarten teacher at Cooke STEM Academy, said the new technology has allowed some of her students to move ahead with more advanced materials while she works in smaller groups with others who need more time in some subject areas.
Garrett gets daily reports on student progress which allows her to identify students who need individualized attention and create individualized lessons.
“It’s giving them more critical lesson to do. It’s putting them ahead to be able to work at their own pace,” Garrett said. “And they love the new technology.”