The digital transition within Florence City Schools began years ago through forward thinking, strategic planning, and a deep understanding of student needs. The overarching purpose of this transition, although multifaceted, centered on the concept of using technology to improve teaching and learning, student engagement, and ultimately, student achievement. This transition included deployment of iPads for sophomores and juniors in 2011, grew to Grades 10-12 in 2012, and ballooned to 3700 devices in Grades k-12 by 2013. Fall 2016 included deployment of 4500 iPads and Chromebooks to every student in Grades PK-12. However, this commitment to providing 21st Century tools has been far from a “technology alone” transition. The focus on curriculum and instruction, professional development to ensure deeper teacher understanding of content standards, and modeling of best practices in every classroom have been key components of Florence City Schools’ digital transition. All students in Grades 5-12 have 24/7 access to their district-owned Chromebook the entire year. This allows for learning to continue and thrive outside the school walls and school-day hours. This is easily evidenced through student-teacher, student-administrator, and school-parent communications via our Learning Management System (LMS).
While the 1:1 Initiative for students in Grades PK-12 has taken center stage in many news outlets, Florence City Schools has long recognized the need for our youngest students to have access to a variety of digital tools. All elementary classrooms are equipped with 1:1 student devices, interactive SmartBoards, multi-media projectors, document cameras, and various other technology tools that enhance the learning environment.
Identifying the most rewarding aspect of Florence City Schools digital transition is a difficult task. Student achievement gains, increased student engagement, improved graduation rate, decreasing discipline referrals, decreasing student absences, increased community-school relationship and partnership, etc., are all direct affects of this digital transition. However, there is one aspect that is missed by many that is a reward that every member of the staff, faculty and administration value: Equity. Providing a device to every student has bridged the socioeconomic divide and ensures a leveled academic opportunity, learning that is relevant to the student, and a world of resources available with a flick of the wrist.
Success of the Florence City Schools digital transition can be attributed to a myriad of reasons; quality strategic planning, cooperation and communication, community support, etc. However, the greatest single factor in successfully implementing the digital transition of Florence City Schools is the faculty, staff, and administrators that committed to embarking on this journey. Faculty, in preparation for a successful digital transition attended thousands of hours of professional development for content, pedagogy, and technology. Staff spent countless hours of collaboratively installing infrastructure, preparing devices, and organizing the distribution, management, and collection of devices. Administrators attended numerous leadership sessions and professional development opportunities in order to support faculty with instruction and learning. The collective effort of Florence City Schools employees to implement a digital transition has proven to be a journey that has not only changed the means by which instruction and learning occur, but has changed a community, a culture, a group of educators, and every student that has the opportunity to attend Florence City Schools. Students will graduate knowing that they have been empowered to explore, create, challenge, innovate and lead.