Ankeny Centennial High School opened in suburban Des Moines several years ago as the first completely new high school created in the state since Davenport North in the 1980s, a response to rapid growth affecting Ankeny’s existing high school. Creation of the new school required the development of new attendance zones, athletic and activity booster groups, reassignment of teachers, and myriad other activities in addition to the construction of a new school (or in Ankeny’s case, two new schools as they replaced Ankeny High School at the same time).
The Iowa City Schools face a similar challenge right now as we prepare for the opening of the district’s third comprehensive high school, Liberty High. While his time is thoroughly consumed with planning for and staffing the new school, Scott took some time to make a trip with me to Ankeny Centennial, where we met with Steven Hopper and Heidi Reichart from the Ankeny CSD’s technology integration program.
We learned about some of the challenges that Ankeny faced in terms of planning for and implementing technology within the new building, including information related to their classroom technology standards, library design, performing and event area technologies, and development work to ensure that staff and students are able to utilize those technologies efficiently and effectively. In classrooms throughout the school we watched as teachers seamlessly integrated document cameras, interactive whiteboards (using MimioTeach interactive devices), and were able to experience the advantages offered by integrated audio systems designed for both multimedia audio and voice lift via a wireless pendant mic worn by the instructor. Some of the creative practices we were able to observe included use of the pendant mic as a sort of “pass the rock” classroom management tool, active response using a combination of district-issued Chromebooks and BYOD with the Kahoot platform, and a geography activity that allowed students to collectively contribute to an online database.
Further, we were able to observe the progress of Ankeny CSD’s 1:1 laptop initiative, wherein each student in fifth grade and up is provided with a Chromebook, and learned about some of the policy and implementation considerations related to that program, along with lessons learned thus far. As we plan for a secondary 1:1 within ICCSD in the coming years, learning from districts that have already implemented similar programs will allow us to make decisions informed by years of experience in comparable settings. For instance, we were curious about the impact of the 1:1 program on some of the more traditional computer labs and computer kiosks within and alongside the library. As you can see in this photo, most of those spaces were largely unused, with students choosing instead to study and work together in more flexible, collaboration-oriented spaces spread throughout the library. Centennial’s librarian confirmed this phenomenon, stating that usage of lab spaces was down dramatically since before the implementation of the 1:1 program. With plenty of conducive spaces to individual and group work, however, usage of the library in general has not dropped.
I’m a huge advocate of sharing with other districts when we’ve developed a program or approach that is highly effective, and it’s always a valuable experience when other districts are able to share what they’ve learned with us. Ankeny is doing some wonderful things that I hope that we can replicate and adapt, as we strive to develop an educational technology environment that allows our students and teachers to maximize their effectiveness, while embracing a spirit of innovation.