A wonderful big idea, a well thought-out plan, buy-in from the school community, and a constant reminder of its importance are key elements of a successful technology rollout in schools. That certainly was the case at Vista Unified School District, a partner in our Digital Promise Schools initiative, where learning coaches, school leaders, and amazing volunteers made a recent technology rollout a community celebration rather than an arduous task.
The tablet rollout at Rancho Minerva and Vista Innovation and Design Academy (VIDA) middle schools earlier this month will serve as a model as Digital Promise and Verizon work with other partner schools to create innovative learning environments. Although it was one of the hottest days in history in Vista, Calif., it didn’t stop the crowds from coming and being a part of this celebration for learning. As I pulled into VIDA, there were families posing with their new iPads, as if they were picking up a puppy from the pet store and introducing it to their family. I got out of my car quickly and helped take portraits for the different families. I could tell the schools did a wonderful job communicating the importance, the possibilities, and the value this journey will provide not only the students but their families at home, too.
Both schools had music, activities, and stations for little sisters and brothers to interact with middle school students and the iPads. I also enjoyed seeing community members volunteer at these events. A group of students from a local college was also there, answering parents’ questions about the university and how to prepare for college. I liked the selfie station and the iPhoto station in the library, some of which were run by students. Also, VIDA had a student store outside; a steady stream of people lined up to buy school-branded items like shirts, bags, and even headphones. (I bought a cool cap!)
At both schools, there was a large group of students wearing distinctive shirts that asked, “How Can I Help You?” The students were everywhere answering questions from parents and they were a huge help with translating when needed. Their enthusiasm was contagious. Every time I saw one of them, they were either jumping up-and-down, smiling, or laughing. As parents, nothing can be better than happy children!
At the schools, everyone volunteered. They gave up their Saturday to be a part of this, not to mention the countless hours the teachers and students put into this celebration the night before and leading up to the event. You could see it everywhere. Every student, parent, and teacher I interviewed shared with me how happy, excited, and proud they were of their school to have been selected. They all see this as a necessary component to help meet the needs of their children. Also, they recognize that while there will be bumps along the way, they’re part of the journey they have to and are willing to take toward learning.
At Rancho Minerva, I was shooting some time-lapse video inside the library, and it was such a pleasure to listen to the library staff greet the families, explain the process to them, and congratulate them. Two of the library staff kept reaching out and tapping kids on the shoulders, as if they did something worthy of a shoulder tap. It was beautiful to see that shy middle school smile pop up time after time.
Even though the lines at times were extremely long, the energy levels stayed high. The schools did a great job of making sure families had their questions answered throughout the waiting process. Rancho Minerva and VIDA had very clear stations. Parents knew where to go and what was next. If you’re in a position that will help organize a rollout like this one in the future, you need to consider what the different stations look like. At Rancho Minerva, the stations were titled “iStart,” “iDocumentation,” “iGet,” and “iInsure,” and throughout the school, there were “iNeed” help stations as well. Both schools really thought through the station planning very efficiently and very effectively. The student helpers also helped connect parents to the right places.
At this event, it was students that took responsibility for documenting and telling stories of their own readiness. They demonstrated how important it is to capture the stories of the day and share them with the world. A local news team was so impressed with these students storytellers that they asked them to send B-roll footage they had shot over to the station for a broadcast. Their teacher, Beth Duncan, was a wonderful cheerleader for her teams as well. This is something all schools need to consider and plan for as well. Vista is about two-and-a-half hours away from me, and I don’t even remember any of the drive home after the event because of how excited I was with what I saw and what I experienced. I want to thank Rancho Minerva and VIDA, our Vista schools, for making me love my job even more!
Next stop: learning!