By now most Lake Nona High School students are enjoying their summer. Students can be found at local pools and beaches as well as working part-time jobs. The students have sun and fun on their minds and not the first day of school (August 15th, by the way.)
Beginning in the 2016-17 school year, Lake Nona High School (LNHS) will be a part of the latest digital curriculum rollout by Orange County Public Schools (OCPS). This is the third and final high school cohort, which, when complete, will have all 19 OCPS high schools with a 1:1 student-to-computer device ratio.
What does this mean exactly for LNHS students? In short, each student will be given a laptop at the beginning of the school year, and the goal is to create an environment where “all students are digital learners with access to digital tools and resources to achieve the Florida Standards and close achievement gaps.” (OCPS Digital Classroom Plan page 39) I believe these are exciting times.
The selected platform for the upcoming school year will be the Google Apps for Education. I am sure most of you have already started to “Google It” to find out exactly what the Google Apps are. The most commonly used products will be Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Calendar and Google Hangouts. Each student will be given a student email address that will be attached to their OCPS student number, as well as Google Drive space for all of their school-related documents.
Is the point of this digital implementation intended to replace our classroom teachers? Absolutely not! The digital curriculum will be another resource for teachers to increase student engagement, progress monitoring, and overall achievement of students. It is designed to enhance the quality of education. To help teachers prepare for the start of the school year, several digital trainings will take place. These trainings will help teachers to learn the various Google apps as well as give them strategies to implement the apps in their classrooms.
Teachers are not the only group that should be preparing for the new Google platform. Returning or new students to LNHS can start checking out the Google education apps now so they can be familiar with the ins and outs of the program. Ironically enough, the easiest way to gain experience is to “Google It.” Just a simple search of the Google Apps can give you a vast amount of information. I went onto YouTube and found a Google for Education channel, as well as many videos detailing the use of the Google platform. The most important thing for the students is to get started now.
One of the main concerns that teachers have already brought up is the issue of connectivity. While the majority of students are always connected to the internet, there are still some students who do not have wifi at home. The great news is there is a program where students can get a special rate for their home internet through Bright House Networks.
There will definitely be some wrinkles to iron out, and the full implementation isn’t expected for a few years. The need for patience from the entire school community will be integral to the success of the digital rollout. Communication with your student’s teachers always helps to maintain a positive relationship throughout the school year. Students and parents are encouraged to attend any informational sessions so they stay informed. Our Lake Nona schools are strong because of the great community we live in and the awesome parents. It is the involvement of the families and community that will lead to our continued success.
There are some additional resources students can utilize during the summer months to help their minds stay engaged academically. “Khan Academy offers practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard that empower learners to study at their own pace in and outside of the classroom” (www.khanacademy.org/about). Students also can use Khan Academy for SAT practice or to prepare for other standardized tests. Using their school ID gmail account, students will sign up for access at khanacademy.org.
The OCPS Summer Reading Initiative is designed to fight the “summer slide,” the incident that occurs when students who don’t read over the summer lose a percentage of the reading skills they developed during the previous school year. To combat the loss of these important skills and minimize the amount of re-teaching that must occur in August, Curriculum and Instruction coordinates the Summer Reading Initiative. The purpose of this initiative is to:
- Raise awareness of the summer loss epidemic.
- Provide access to a variety of free resources to support literacy skills.
- Share tips with parents on how to reinforce reading at home.
- Motivate student to read.