The K-12 Ithaca City School District serves 6,000 students from racially, geographically, and economically diverse backgrounds. Forty percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunch, but thanks to the 1:1 program, which has been in place for seven years, every student has a laptop. “We have removed the barrier of access,” says Superintendent Luvelle Brown about the laptops. “This has allowed us to give voice and choice to young people who have been marginalized.”
The district has embraced the Computer Science for All movement and works to develop students’ computational thinking skills. With designated makerspaces in every school, students learn how to code, program robots, and use devices like 3D printers and laser cutters. High school students create and edit videos about school events in the school’s digital media studio, and the high school robotics team participates in national competitions.
Students are encouraged to learn about – and solve – real-world problems through transdisciplinary case studies, in which they do online research, gather data, and connect, for example, with community engineering experts to learn why one part of campus is prone to flooding, and what they can do about it.
Brown attributes the success of these digital learning initiatives to administrator, teacher, and student collaboration; student advisory councils and regular teacher meetings help inform and develop the curriculum.