Digitally Literate Asheville: Overview
The story of Asheville City Schools' Digitally Literate Asheville initiative is a story of transformation. Through grants, sustained effort and innovation we are meeting our students' needs in the Twenty-first Century by providing the rich, relevant and rigorous learning experiences that will lead our students to succeed.
Phase 1: Preparing Teachers, Network, Classrooms
ACS was selected as a pilot district for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction during 2007-8 during which every principal and 3 district curriculum directors participating in a year of activities, presentations, planning, and discussion bearing on aspects of educational leadership in the 21st century. For 2008-9 all schools were awarded a larger grant to implement the NC IMPACT model of school transformation leveraged by digital resources and professional development for all staff members. This was followed by a two-year federal grant cycle starting in 2009-10 for deepening project-based learning practices and infusing teaching and learning with digital tools and engaging real-world learning challenges. By the end of 2010-11 school year, ACS placed interactive whiteboards in all elementary learning areas, digital projection and sound systems in all learning areas, and implemented a robust digital network with wireless access throughout the district.
As a result of these grants, and a sustaining commitment from the district, all teachers have laptops and participate in professional development, collaboration, and innovation.
Phase 2: High School 1:1
The term Digital Divide describes the gap between those that have access to digital tools and resources and those that do not. ACS is committed to ensuring all our students can participate in the 21st Century by bridging the gap, providing access to appropriate digital tools and resources. The need for every student to have a personal digital learning device drives the next phase of Digitally Literate Asheville.
Our high schools are now one to one schools. This means each student has a personal digital learning device, namely a laptop computer. Teachers create online classes with Canvas, Google Apps for Education, blogs, web 2.0 tools and a paperless exchange of work and feedback. All students are trained in online responsibility and accountability. In the spring of 2011, all ninth-grade students received a laptop. In the fall of 2011, the rest of the students in grades ten, eleven and twelve received laptops. Funding from several sources was blended to make this a reality: federal grants administered by NCDPI, an Appalachian Regional Commission workforce development grant, a grant from the Mebane Foundation, and ongoing support from Asheville City Schools.
We continue to improve our approach. In 2013-14 ACS received a Digital Teaching and Learning Grant from NCDPI. This grants allowed a focus sharing successful practice. Select teachers in grades six to twelve formed a Digital Learning Team and self-selected learning tracks to build on their strengths in digital teaching and learning. Built into this grant is a "learn from one another" ethos. Teachers on the Digital Learning Team are committed to sharing their expertise with their colleagues.
Phase 3: Middle School 1:1
In the fall of 2015, Asheville Middle defined their approach to Digital Learning as “One to World”. This emphasized the connections technology allows students to make with the global community. AMS had 1 laptop per student for grade 8 in 2015-16 and in 2016-2017 added grades 6 and 7.
Phase 4: Elementary 1:1
Preparations for the upper elementary phase of our Digitally Literate Asheville Initiative are ongoing as well. Every elementary school is conducting professional development for collaborative development of activities that engage and meet the needs of all learners. One to one in an elementary school may look quite different than a middle or high school as the learner needs are different. Younger students need the most responsive and engaging technology. ACS seeks funding from the community, business, and philanthropic organizations to complete this phase.
In the fall of 2017, all Fifth-grade classes have sufficient Chromebooks for each student to have access to digital learning at any time. Ubiquitous technology allows teachers to invest in re-inventing their craft, incorporating digital tools and resources to fascinate students and personalize education.