A long-term program called MyWay will ensure every one of Wayzata Public School’s (WPS) 10,400 students will be prepared to thrive in a rapidly evolving global society. “People communicate with each other by using technology today,” says WPS curriculum director Shelly Nelson, “so we have to provide our students with opportunities to learn how they are expected to communicate in the world.”
This year, the students will begin to receive iPads as early as Kindergarten. The intention is to blend this new tool with the school’s present curriculum to increase student engagement and provide a “world-class and personalized student learning experience,” Nelson says.
Jill Johnson, executive director of Teaching and Learning, says, “We are on this journey because the times demand it. People perceive learning differently in this century and the available resources are different. In a way we are being pushed, but we are ready to pursue it.”
Students at every grade level will participate in the program, which will be rolled out in three phases over three years. According to Nelson, “The younger the audience has always had technology in their lives and they’re very adaptable. Elementary school is a great time to teach kids how to interact with technology and how to behave in that world. We want to get the expectations ingrained right away.”
Director of technology Wade Phillips framed the MyWay initiative within the context of the school’s strategic roadmap, district mission, values and vision. Some of the immediate goals include developing teachers, administrators and parents, and translating the curriculum to the digital world. “It’s a learning focus initiative driven by the school’s mission,” he says. “The iPad is just one piece of a larger objective.”
WPS students will use the iPad in a wide range of contexts. They’ll explore different ways to create and share information including the use of blogs and iMovie. Phillips envisions the iPads as a daily tool. The students can use the calendar, set tasks, and create and post content with the school’s proprietary Learning Management System Moodle. “The limitations are only based on our imagination,” he says.
Curriculum director Shelley Nelson notes that the iPad provides some information that can’t be transmitted in any other way, such as the opportunity for interactivity and immediate feedback. “From a kid’s perspective, it’s highly engaging,” Nelson says. “You can see their energy, engagement and motivation.”
Phillips adds, “We are trying to create conditions for success. MyWay provides opportunities to prepare our students for the world, including college and career readiness.”
There are a few challenges to address, including Internet safety and taking responsibility for an expensive piece of technology. Phillips says that parents have been overwhelmingly supportive. “They trust in the fact that they know where we’re going; they tend to gravitate toward the how of it—how to help their child and keep them safe online.”
The parents pick up the iPad together with their student so they have the opportunity to buy insurance, learn about Internet filters and see how the iPad works. The kids are also taught responsible use in the classroom. Nelson admits that there is a fair share of unknowns, but she is “confident that our outstanding teaching staff will think of ways to engage that we’d never think of. It’s hard to see all the possibilities until it’s in the classroom,” she says.
Nelson continues, adding, “Our kids are ready for this and we want to help kids to learn how to love learning. MyWay is a great way to go about that. This is their world.”