The Salem City School Division has long been a leader in the use of Instructional Technology for the purpose of preparing Salem’s children to be creative problem solvers who are equipped to communicate and succeed in the digital age and global economy.   Most recently, Salem City Schools adopted an Open Device Environment (ODE), which permitted and encouraged students to use their own cell phones and tablets to increase their access to, and use of digital learning resources.  This gave teachers access to additional tools that utilize innovative and engaging methods of teaching and learning.

While proving useful, an Open Device Environment brings with it several challenges.   The first challenge is that not every student has access to a personal device and those students are at a disadvantage when instruction relies on the use of those devices.  We also discovered that personal electronic devices such as phones and tablets are good for consuming information and resources but do not fulfill our instructional objectives for students to create original work.  Lastly, the wide variety of personal devices can hinder teaching because of the technical challenges encountered.

The Salem High School Technology Team met and reflected on the Open Device Environment.  They determined the best way to conquer the digital divide and allow students to be creators of content would be to provide each student with the same mobile digital device.   The preliminary work by this group was considered by the School Board at the Board Development Workshop on January 30, 2015.  At that time, the Board urged the staff to prioritize, “an investment in students” to eliminate the inequity and do so, “as a moral imperative.”

Starting this fall 2015, Salem High School will begin a 1:1 computer device program in grades 9-12.  This will mean that every student has immediate access to mobile technology throughout the school day and that the computing device is mobile so it can move easily from classroom to classroom as needed.  The goal is to move beyond using technology as a substitute instructional tool, to redefine the classroom experience to allow for the creation of new practices previously inconceivable.

This approach to ensuring that all Salem High School Students have equity of opportunity is significantly enhanced thanks to community and business partnerships.  The City of Salem has established a community “Salem WiFi” in downtown and other City locations.  This access, combined with opportunities for the School Division to connect families with financial need with Internet service providers for their residences will enable every SHS student the opportunity to be an anytime, anyplace learner.

To provide a successful transition into a 1:1 initiative at Salem High School we will engage in steps to provide infrastructure support in the area of professional development and wireless technology upgrades.  Participating students and their families will choose from multiple opportunities this summer to pick up their device, receive important information, and get answers to any questions they may have.

Innovating at Salem High School will also benefit all other Salem schools.  A significant number of laptop carts and other devices will be redeployed to the other schools, increasing access to digital learning tools for all Salem students and accelerating division efforts to personalize learning while cultivating critical-thinking, communication, collaboration, and problem-solving skills in the students we serve.

Questions regarding this initiative may be directed to Jennifer Dean jdean@salem.k12,va,us, Jim Rieflin, or Curtis Hicks