1:1 Initiative (Project OLE)
The Jim Thorpe Area School District has recognized the importance of integrating technology into the curriculum for many years, and has been a leader in Carbon County in terms of the use of educational technology. With the support of the school board, the administration has done a good job balancing the purchase of resources while being fiscally responsible.
After many years of research, as well as building out the necessary infrastructure in terms of network and teacher training, it was decided in 2014 that the most advantageous path forward for our students and staff to prepare our students for the 21st Century would be to transform our schools' learning environments into a 1:1 environment, where every student, teacher and support staff would. have a computer and/or an iPad. Thus was born Project OLE (Olympian Learning Environment). As such, the Jim Thorpe Area School District became the first school district in Carbon County to implement a one-to-one computing initiative and one of the first in northeast Pennsylvania to have a district-wide K-12 one-to-one program, starting in the 2014-15 school year.
The goals of Project OLE are as follows:
To create a 21st century learning environment that engages all students
To improve student achievement through the use of technology and collaborative learning
To assure equity in access to digital resources
To promote economic development by preparing students for tomorrow’s workplace
To enhance teaching and transform the quality of instruction
For students in grades K-6, it was determined that the best computing device was determined to be the Apple iPad, and for students in grades 7-12, the Apple MacBook Air computer. Teachers would be provided with a MacBook Air and/or an iPad, depending on their grade level. Paraprofessional would be provided an iPad or MacBook Air, depending on the students and teachers they supported.
Transitioning Jim Thorpe Area School District into a 1:1 environment needed to be done in a financially responsible manner; which is why it is worth noting that by leasing these devices, we have not significantly impacted the technology budget. Additionally, by purchasing digital content and leveraging the technology we have been able to garner significant savings. Finally, the district was able to obtain significant value in reselling the used technology after the initial lease in 2019, which was used to defray the cost of refreshing the laptops and iPads.
Throughout the initial implementation of Project OLE, our professional staff was provided many hours of Apple Professional Development in using the technology and software. In 2018, all teachers were required to become Apple Teacher certified, which involved going through a rigorous self-paced set of learning modules on using Apple hardware and software. The district achieved 100% of all teachers becoming Apple Teacher certified. Many teachers also took the initiative to get Google Level 1 Certified in subsequent years.
The district had already transitioned to Google Workspace many years prior to Project OLE, with all students and teachers had a Google account and email, though student email is limited to grades 4-12. As such, the use of Google Docs, Slides, Sheets, and Drive were already second nature to our students and staff. Digital textbooks and curriculum were purchased in many grade levels and subject areas as their replacement cycle came due, which leveraging the technology investment as well as saving money. More digital platforms were utilized for diagnostic and prescriptive learning. Online testing for Keystone Tests were made possible as a result of Project OLE.
In addition to the hardware and software training, the district started implementation on online learning platforms to foster the 24/7 access to curriculum and learning resources envisioned by Project OLE. In grades K-2, Seesaw was implemented as the learning platform and parent communication tool of choice. Google Classroom was designated the learning platform of choice in grades 3-8. It was determined that Schoology was the best online learning platform for grades 9-12, due to the feature set designed for secondary students. While adoption to these online learning platforms was a slow and steady growth, the foundation was being built.
In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic caused schools to close, and forced schools across the state and nation to close and transition quickly to remote learning. As a result of the investments of time, technology , training, and funds into Project OLE, the Jim Thorpe Area School District was uniquely positioned to make that transition fairly seamlessly and rapidly, moving into full remote learning almost immediately. This remote learning continued for the 2020-21 school year. Swivl devices and iPads were purchased with grant funds, which allowed teachers to teach students in person and at home synchronously, while incorporating Google Meets and Schoology conferences for remote audio and video connections. In addition, the district implemented a full remote learning option, the Olympian Learning Connection (OLC), for students who were not able or willing to return to in-person learning.
For the 2021-22 school year, the return of in-person learning has brought a sense of normalcy, while still under the shadow of the pandemic. The district has been able to leverage what was learned during remote learning and transition to full remote instruction and use flexible instruction days as needed due to security and weather as a result of having the Project OLE one-to-one initiative. Teachers are leveraging the online learning platforms regularly, which has allowed students access to those learning resources as needed. The OLC program transitioned to using the eLearn 21 platform and curriculum. The goals of Project OLE are being realized each school year, as our students are being prepared to excel in a 21st century global interconnected economy.