Serving more than 101,000 K-12 students across 156 schools, Jefferson County is a big district that recently launched a big digital learning program. Called the Backpack of Success Skills, the initiative gives each student a “digital backpack” to store “artifacts” showing their academic progress around five key areas that include innovation, communication, and collaboration.
Here’s how it works: Students create an online portfolio, adding assets to a drive throughout the year as they complete projects. These artifacts include everything from digital dioramas, slides, and video files to assessments and written reflections. At the end of grades 5, 8, and 12, students “defend” the contents of their backpacks for 5-15 minutes before a panel of teachers and community members. Their presentations let them showcase their favorite creative projects, demonstrate their readiness to graduate to the next school level and let teachers know which project-based learning activities had the most impact.
“We’re trying to create deeper learning experiences for the kids, and really focus on student engagement,” says Heather Warrell, the district’s executive administrator of digital innovation. This approach provides more equitable access to digital learning, as principals are encouraged to add more devices in their classrooms. Says Warrell, “This increase of access means more opportunity for kids to create and take initiative.”