Arp ISD has been named second in the nation among small school districts by the National School Board Association and the Center for Digital Education. This recognition is part of the annual Digital School District survey, which looks at the ways districts use technology to expand student engagement and improve parent communication.
I asked Dr. Joy Rousseau, CTE, Technology Integration Specialist, and IT Director for Arp, how the district achieved this level of success. She contends that it is a result of everyone working together rather than some magic formula. Administrators, faculty, school board, and parents all share a clear vision of technology-integrated learning, and the technology staff is always reading, researching, and encouraging teachers and administrators to try new ideas and approaches.
Arp ISD is a small district in east Texas and has around 1,300 devices available for student and teacher use, allowing teachers the flexibility to choose the best technology for each project. “Teachers need to choose and be confident,” explained Dr. Rousseau. “They can select the device they want. You don’t want to lock teachers down with one option.”
Along with choice, Arp ISD is constantly offering technology workshops for teachers, students, and parents alike. The district has built training capacity with teacher mentors and student teams who specialize in technology.
Not all teachers are comfortable with technology at first, but Dr. Rousseau reassures both early adopters and the resistant by telling them, “If I’m not making your life easier with tech, I’m not doing my job.” Over time, each educator finds the level of technology integration that best fits his or her purpose.
Limited broadband access in Arp means that the schools are some of the only places residents from the community can get online, and this reality, compounded by the limited job opportunities in this small community, is one reason for the district’s proactive approach. Dr. Rousseau noted, “About half of our students don’t have Internet connections at home and might not have access to technology outside of school.”
Keys to Success
- Develop a clear vision for technology integration and keep pushing and selling that vision all the time.
- Connect with educators around the country and the world, examining their successes and challenges.
- Take the time to read journals and discover proven, research-based approaches.
- Troubleshoot your ideas with other educators in groups like TCEA’s TEC-SIG.
- Always keep evaluating and rethinking your goals and your progress so you can adjust and account for the needs of your students and staff.
Watch this video to learn more about Arp ISD’s technology-rich learning environment.