iLCPS: opening the door to the future

Welcome to the future.

It dawned about 4:30 p.m. Monday when the Lenoir County Board of Commissioners signed off on LCPS’s lease agreement with Apple Inc. and that initiative we call iLCPS — for Individualized Learning Creates Personal Success — cleared its last procedural hurdle. After a couple of years of discussing its feasibility, after working this summer preparing teachers and administrators, after planning in earnest for the past several months, after the Lenoir County Board of Education approved the funding component, after all that is required to get ready for a project of this size, the door opened to the future of learning in Lenoir County.

And (as if you didn’t know) the future is digital.

What does it look like? It looks very little like the classrooms of even a few years ago; but, in truth, it looks a lot like many other places in this wired and connected world. In other words, iLCPS aligns instruction with the way students acquire information and learn today.

In a digital world, information no longer resides in a place; it is everywhere, accessible through the Internet and available almost instantaneously. No one knows this better than young people. If they want to find a fact, they go to the Web. If they want to solve a problem, they go to the Web. LCPS recognizes this seismic shift in learning habits and recognizes the need to shift with them.

Here are the basics of iLCPS: Over the next three years, we will provide iPads to every student in the system. The first deployment is scheduled for next month, when all LCPS teachers will receive iPads and MacBooks. In November, all K-5 students are scheduled to receive iPads. Middle school students will get iPads next school year; and high school students, the year after that.

Obviously, a digital classroom would not exist without a digital device like an iPad. The hundreds of apps geared to education and the help Apple gives school systems in integrating its tablet into the wired classroom make iPads an excellent tool for learning. They are, however, just a tool. Simply passing out iPads to students won’t make a classroom more productive. As always, teachers will make the difference.

We have invested – and will continue to invest – numerous hours in development sessions designed to help teachers realize the creative potential of the digital classroom. Because of the rollout schedule, we’re focusing now on K-5 teachers. With the help of Digital Learning Specialists at each elementary school, they are discovering that iPads can help turn dry facts into interesting and fun activities. They are coming to understand how iPads allow students to learn the same lesson in different ways and at their own pace.

For many teachers, the one-size-fits-all model of instruction is very frustrating. Some of their students want to go faster; others need to go slower. In a digital classroom, where teachers are guiding discoveries rather than stacking facts, they can be more accommodating to the individual and more successful overall.

One thing we know for sure — students will be more engaged and have more fun learning. We know this because we’ve seen it already in those schools where classes share a limited number of iPads. (Here’s a video from Banks Elementary that shows what we’re talking about http://tinyurl.com/o3m5wv5). When the iPads come out, the kids get active, they get creative and no one looks for a place to hide. With iLCPS, we expect that reaction in every K-5 classroom, not just a few.

We’re well aware that the future can be a little disconcerting. People, especially parents, have questions about how iLCPS will work. We plan to begin providing that information soon, in as much detail as is necessary and in as many forms as we feel will be effective. Don’t be surprised if many of those forms involve a computer or other digital device; there’s nothing surprising about that anymore.