Response was so positive to last week’s Q&A with Dr. Dallas Dance, Superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools (who also presented yesterday at SXSWedu), that we asked BCPS to take a deeper dive into their digital conversion and strategy to prepare globally competitive graduates. Here’s what they shared with Blackboard:

Preparing every student to graduate globally competitive is the focus of the Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) five-year strategic plan, Blueprint 2.0. One key is equitable access to an effective digital learning environment for each student. We will get there through a 1:1 instructional digital conversion that affects everything we do—curriculum, instruction, assessment, professional development, infrastructure, policy, budget, and communications.

Our district mantra is “All Means All.” While we celebrate high levels of student achievement, we also acknowledge persistent achievement gaps based on race and poverty. Our growing student body has become more diverse at a time when the economy requires more from our students for future success. Every diploma must signify preparation for postsecondary education or career training.

Devices are not driving these changes. BCPS teachers are first redesigning curriculum in the core content areas to redefine what instruction will look like in a blended learning environment. The digital curriculum aims to support instructional shifts with a stronger emphasis on critical thinking and analytical skills. Educators are creating entirely new learning opportunities that reflect 21st century skills both inside and outside of the classroom. Technology is one tool for extending educator capacity to differentiate learning and meet these higher demands.

The educator role is shifting toward facilitating the learning process with the goal of student ownership for lifelong learning. Reaching all learners means organizing multiple ways for students to access content and express what they know. Through digital resources, students can quickly brush up on an unfamiliar topic or pursue more of a challenge. Discussions open up for peers separated by school boundaries or time zones. Educators can analyze student comprehension as demonstrated through video, audio, social media, and other interactive means, and respond with personalized supports.

Purposeful use of technology is what one of our Lighthouse School leaders calls a more authentic way to reach today’s digital natives. In fall 2014, 10 Lighthouse Schools will begin modeling student-centered blended learning with the support of 1:1 devices, intensive professional development, and a robust wireless and broadband infrastructure. These schools will pioneer innovative strategies and share lessons learned to help support schools across the county.

The BCPS instructional digital conversion is a commitment to every learner. We are dedicated to transforming how we operate in order to prepare our young people for an ever-changing world. Beyond placing a device in each student’s hands, we are realizing the promise of individualized learning. Every student deserves nothing less.

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