Located just west of Bismarck, the Mandan Public School District serves almost 4,000 K-12 students. The district implemented a 1:1 program in all grades, giving each student a tablet, because “the BYOD approach isn’t going to work when you have a 30 percent poverty rate,” says Assistant Superintendent Jeff Fastnacht. “We want to bridge that digital divide and give all kids access.”
The district emphasizes personalized learning and encourages students to demonstrate their knowledge through creative projects. One middle school student used her tablet to research and create a presentation about the first woman to fight in the Revolutionary War. High schoolers have interviewed classmates and created podcasts in AP government classes. And immigrant students have improved their English skills while creating, editing, and producing videos about their interests and life experiences. The district hopes to organize a “red carpet premiere night” at a local movie theater to showcase the students’ work.
With much of the curriculum integrated into the learning management system, the district has worked hard to alleviate teachers’ concerns about becoming irrelevant. “One of the things we have really hammered home is that the tech gives teachers leverage and the ability to think outside the box,” says Jeff Rerick, the district technology director. “If you can get worksheets graded automatically, that’s more time you can spend with them, building relationships and working on their social-emotional learning, which is just as important as the content knowledge.”