By Dr. Darryl Adams

As the superintendent of the Coachella Valley Unified School District (CVUSD), my staff and I face numerous challenges and opportunities to make a difference for students.

Our district encompasses 23 schools with 19,500 students and covers an area as large as Rhode Island. We’re also among the poorest school districts in the country. A few years ago, one of our most pressing issues was our high school graduation rate–it was between 70-75 percent, and only 16 percent of our students who went on to college graduated from college.

An Ambitious Plan

When devising a program to improve student outcomes, we wanted to do more than just boost attendance and graduation rates. We wanted to excite our students about coming to school every day and introduce them to the wonders of technology through 1:1 learning. To accomplish this, we set out to become the first school district in the country to give every teacher a MacBook Air and every student, from pre-kindergarten to the 12th grade, an Apple iPad.

We were even more inspired to meet this goal as we examined the direction the world is heading in regards to technology. In day-to-day life, technology is everywhere— we are always connected. Technology has caused a disruption in the classroom, while the world our students enter after graduation has already adapted. If we are to properly prepare our students for their future careers, then we have to prepare them for to the world that they will soon enter.

With the passing of a $42 million technology bond in November 2012, CVUSD was able to increase Wi-Fi access points and bandwidth and purchase the mobile devices. To help store, charge and distribute all of these devices, the district purchased mobile device carts from LocknCharge.

21st-Century Classroom

Since the implementation of the devices, we have seen our attendance rise to 98 percent, graduation rate go up to 84 percent and an increase in test scores across the board. With the new devices and mobile device carts, our teachers have been able to introduce 1:1 learning in the classroom and reinvigorate excitement in students.

Our classrooms have been transformed so that students can instantly discover the information they need on their own and utilize learning applications for reading and math on the iPads. The carts help protect our technology investment and make it easier for teachers and students to transport the devices.

The commitment by everyone at CVUSD to integrating iPads into the classroom led to me being named as one of the top 100 superintendents in the nation. President Obama even recognized our district’s accomplishment as the Future Ready Summit in November 2014. I attribute this honor to our whole community for embracing this ambitious project with open arms, including the creation of a SAMR program for our educators.

Looking Forward

Going forward, we are pursuing personalized learning and partnering with Summit Public Schools and Facebook to be the first public school district to pilot Summit Schools’s personalized learning application with over 1,000 of our students. We will be able to empower our students to help personalize their learning experience to what they are interested in and the careers they hope to pursue one day.

For schools looking to integrate mobile devices into the classroom, here are a few steps I’d recommend to take along the way:

  • Discover your why. Why are you doing this? Why is it important? Articulate the reasons and revisit them daily.
  • Communicate your vision. You need to be able to communicate your vision for the why to help create community buy-in.
  • Get everyone on board and work together. Through community engagement from parents, local officials and even your congressional representatives, any school district can seek to turn their classrooms into a 21st-century learning environment.

CVUSD has been able to put a device into every one of our teachers’ and students’ hands through the help of our dedicated staff, parents, administrators, community and local officials. Together, we redefined how we prepare our students for college, career and citizenship. We are excited to see what they will accomplish in the future.

Dr. Darryl Adams is the superintendent of Coachella Valley Unified School District. Follow him on Twitter at @DrAdamsCVUSD and follow the school district on Twitter at @CVUnified.

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