In Dedham, Massachusetts public schools, students use tablets until the third grade, and then transition to laptops and a full 1:1 program. Teachers have access to a wealth of subscription-based software, appropriate educational websites, and other real-time interactive tools that support the curriculum.
The district also invests heavily in professional development, sending teachers to conferences and Edcamps and encouraging the sharing of best practices on social media – all in an effort to improve student learning. “We want to provide teachers what they need and kids what they need,” says Dr. Don Langenhorst, the district’s technology director. “And everyone is different, so our job is to provide consistency with differentiation of support.”
For some nonverbal preschool students with special needs, digital learning takes the form of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) apps, which provide visual and auditory input and can help improve verbal language skills. Teachers model how to use the apps on tablets, showing students how to touch symbols to communicate their basic needs and wants. The district even allows these students to take the tablets home with them. Thanks to these digital learning tools, some previously nonverbal students have become verbal communicators – and no longer need the tablets.