Last month, as high school students at Orange County Public Schools returned to class for the 2016-17 school year, pencils and notebooks weren’t the only items in their backpacks. In the weeks leading up to their first day, all students received digital learning devices.
This made OCPS the first school district in Central Florida to provide a digital learning device to every student, teacher and administrator at all 19 traditional high schools. Additionally, six middle schools and seven elementary schools distributed devices as part of the district’s LaunchED digital learning program. These schools included Audubon Park, Sunrise and Windermere elementary schools and Hunter’s Creek, Southwest and Wedgefield middle schools.
The LaunchED program began in 2013 with 8,000 devices and a purpose to identify if the district could increase student engagement and achievement through personalized digital content and tools such as online textbooks. With community support, the program has grown to include 70,000 devices at the 33 participating elementary, middle and high schools.
The classrooms in each of the LaunchEd schools include state-of-the-art equipment and services such as increased internet bandwidth, wireless access points, interactive touch-screen flat panels, document cameras and in-ceiling audio enhancement.
In an OCPS video for the LaunchEd program that was filmed at Oak Ridge High School, students describe the program as an interactive source of learning where they have easy access to educational documents. Teachers explain that they can access students’ work with just the click of a mouse and can easily share with others when students are doing well.
In the video, Ryan Lay, a teacher at ORHS explains that his students are on social media and the internet already, which opens them up to more collaboration in education. “That allows me to open up the learning outside of the four walls of my classroom,” he says. “It’s nothing short of revolutionized the way that I teach.”
Lee Ann Bradshaw, executive area director of high schools, shares that the LaunchEd program has opened up learning opportunities for students who may not otherwise have them. “Many of our students do not have laptops at home, so now we have put the tools in the hands of all of our students, leveling that playing field.”
The LaunchEd program provides four years of job-embedded professional development focused on gradually transitioning teachers from the basic adoption of technology that enhances standards-based instruction to transformative technology use that enhances student inquiry using Project Based Learning.