MARCH/APRIL 2011Cell Phone Savvy T Yohey explains how this district odd is using phones, laptops, and YouTube to better engage students and bring 21st technology into classrooms.
OAK HILLS SCHOOL DISTRICT OHIOT here’s no denying today’s students are entranced by Demographically, Oak Hills has less than 1% minority popula- various types of technology. Even elementary-school tion and is composed of two townships. children are well versed in everything from iPhonesand laptops to Google searches and YouTube videos. At Oak Yohey has been with the district for two years, and duringHills School District in Cincinnati, Ohio, superintendent Todd that time, he’s put a strong emphasis on using all types ofYohey and his team recognized this phenomenon and have technology in Oak Hills’ classrooms. Prior to his arrival, thechanneled technology into classrooms, increasing student district had begun to engage community stakeholders in itsattentiveness and creativity. vision to increase the use of technology but was early in the implementation stage. Drawing from past experiences, YoheyOak Hills is home to 8,100 students. The district has a and his team began a program aimed at meeting the needs oftotal of nine buildings with five elementary schools, three students with the help of the latest technologies.middle schools, one high school, and an alternative school. “At Oak Hills, we believe students are going to attain their education differ- ently in the 21st century,” said Yohey. “It’s not just about the changes that have taken place over the past 10 years; it’s about the pace of those changes. We’re trying to build an infrastructure that gives us the capacity to meet those demands.” The program, named Oak Hills 2020, was designed to provide the district with a framework to meet the increasing pace of change. “There are going to be more changes to educational attainment and instructional delivery in the next decade than we’ve seen in the last 200 years collectively,” said Yohey. iSmart As part of the Oak Hills 2020 plan, high school teachers and staff welcomed tech- nology into the classroom through their students. Although iPods, cell phones, and laptops are viewed as distractions in most classroom settings, Yohey believed Oak Hills could channel these technolo- gies into educational tools, adding to students’ educational experience. “This technology has become part of a students’ learning program,” said Yohey. “In addition, we’ve relaxed access to sites such as YouTube, which is another unconventional outlet. We real- ized there are a lot more opportunities for students and teachers to learn by using websites or technology they’re not accustomed to.” Yohey and his team saw how students were already using this type of technol- ogy, and they knew taking advantage of2 | Education-Executive.com MARCH/APRIL 2011
EDUCATION S P O T L I G H Tits appeal could spark innovative changes in the way studentslearned. “We leveraged the technology so it would play intothe curriculum,” he said. “It was my desire, and the desire ofour teachers, to address students via the means they’re alreadyusing to attain instruction in nontraditional ways. So far, it’sworked well.”For example, a student struggling with a concept could easilyaccess Google to define a term. Similarly, a student could useSkype to call a local professional and conduct an interview toenhance the content he/she is learning about.“There’s also a lot of opportunity for collaboration outside theclassroom,” he said. “Maybe a teacher has a set of resourceshe/she posted on a companion site. Students can now easilyaccess it on their mobile device.”A sense of maturity is also being instilled in Oak Hills stu-dents by using this technology in the classroom. Yoheyexplained that appropriate use is part of the program, andstudents are expected to adhere to certain restrictions.“Learning the appropriate time to use these devices hasbecome part of this process as well,” he said. “In our adultworkplace environments, many of us use technology on a dailybasis, and we know what’s appropriate and what’s not. Now,children are learning the same types of things at an early age.”Thinking aheadYohey said the Oak Hills 2020 initiative wouldn’t have beenpossible without the support of the community. “Our stake-holder groups drove this initiative for us,” he said. “Whenwe looked at 21st century learning and Oak Hills 2020, we sawwe had the support of parents, which was essential. We alsoheard from parents that we needed to keep up with technol-ogy and make sure we’re providing opportunities for studentsto learn in innovative ways.”Innovation is apparent in Oak Hills’ use of technology and thedistrict’s new programs for high school students. Beginningwith this year’s sophomores, Oak Hill students will have theoption to graduate with a predetermined area of focus, suchas performing arts or international studies. Yohey said thishelps to prepare students for college and give them a headstart to remain competitive in today’s business environment.“This program is another example of the changes we see hap-pening in education,” said Yohey. “In the future, we don’t seeour children sitting in a classroom for seven hours a day.Instead, we see a variety of schedules for students dependingon their courses and areas of focus. Hybrid classes and onlinework are possibilities as well. Education is changing, and wewant to make sure we’re doing everything in our power toaccommodate those changes.” N —Michelle McNickle MARCH/APRIL 2011 Education-Executive.com | 3