In 2013, after years of careful planning, Miami-Dade County Public Schools set in motion an ambitious project to fundamentally transform the learning experience for its 365,000 students.
The goal was to bring education into the 21st century, leveraging technology to alter the district’s overall infrastructure as well as individual classroom environments. At the same time, planners focused on improving education through blended learning, engaging content, and great teaching.
And throughout the process, educators relied on the experience of their trusted IT advisor, United Data Technologies.
A transformation that grew in the making
“It started out as digital conversion, we were going to convert from paper content books to electronic content,” said Debbie Karcher, CIO, Miami-Dade County Public Schools. “But what we discovered was it was more of a convergence, it involved everything and everybody.” It became more about the pedagogy of teaching, she continued, “changing our classroom structures, professional development that teachers would need, and it was also about our infrastructure and what we need to change there.”
Henry Fleches, UDT’s Chief Executive Officer, concurred, explaining that digital transformation is more than just going from text to digital content. “It’s about transforming the classroom from a teacher-centric to as student-centric model, and enabling that project-based and collaborative-based learning in the classroom,” he said.
Key to the transformation at Miami-Dade was the deployment of 100,000 tablet devices for 1:1 eLearning. These personal tablets were critical to the success of the program, giving students the latest and greatest learning tools. “This is crazy, and it made my interest in school just rise. We find new ways to learn using the tablets, it’s a better way to learn. I like it,” said one student describing his first day at school when devices were distributed.
“The devices really changed the way I teach in the classroom,” said teacher Marissa Dominguez. “It’s more of a discovery-based learning where I set up little tidbits and they go out and put the pieces together, so it’s completely changed how I approach the kids and how I deal with the subject of history. In the past, they’ll raise a hand and ask, ‘Miss, I don’t understand how to do this.’ But now it’s more collaborative, so they’ve actually begun to interact with each other more and push each other to learn.”
Echoed teacher Sandy Leal-Garcia, “Using the tablets in the classroom, the students are more motivated and more engaged, they’re using tools they already love, so bringing that into the classroom helps them to learn more at a level they appreciate.”
Personal tablets elevate the learning experience
“One of the things we’ve seen is the rigor and the engagement in the classroom has gone up to another level,” said principal Eric Acosta. “Teachers have really started to use the computers to transform the classroom.”
Providing each student with a personal learning device has done more than improve learning – in some cases it’s even changed lives. “Students who have notoriously been in trouble are no longer coming to the office,” said Dr. Carmen Jones-Carey, principal. “They’re looking forward to going to class, they want to be in class.”
That benefit extends to students’ families as well. “We do have a lot of students who don’t have a computer at home, and this is the only computer they have, the only access the family will have to technology,” explained Lazaro Hernandez, assistant principal. “So it is affecting families, it is changing lives because it’s opening up the Internet for them, opening up opportunities they didn’t have before.”
UDT brings education expertise to the engagement
The digital transformation process for Miami-Dade County Public Schools was one of the largest projects ever undertaken by UDT, and it all started with careful planning.
“We did a tremendous amount of research when we were looking for how we were going to deliver a solution for our customers in education,” said Daniel Rodriguez, UDT’s Corporate Technology Officer. “UDT places a lot of emphasis on planning, because no engagement is the same. It takes a lot to think about all the challenges that could happen. But if we identify these through the planning process, it gives us an opportunity to take actionable steps in order to avoid those challenges downstream.”
After considering numerous ecosystems, UDT determined that a combination of Intel and Microsoft technologies provided the most flexibility for its clients, and it took advantage of Miami-Dade’s large investment in existing infrastructure.
“Intel was an incredibly strategic partner for us in this project,” said Rodriguez. “They provided the platforms that were ultimately the most mobile, the most powerful, and the most lightweight. And, we knew that we would be able to deliver the secure environments necessary to protect student and teacher information.”
For its part, the District was pleased with the total package provided by UDT, from the infrastructure they put in place to the ongoing direction throughout the process. “They’re very thoughtful in terms of looking at the implementation and trying to mitigate all the different kinds of risks,” said Silvia Diaz, Assistant Superintendent. “The integration, the support for these technologies, the planning for the deployment, their experience has really been major in terms of contributing to our success.”
In fact, the district’s success has captured the attention of fellow educators. “Other districts that have looked at what we’re doing in Miami-Dade have been fascinated to see how engaged the students are,” said Tony Cossio, UDT’s vice president of public sector. “And, really, that’s what it’s all about, getting the students engaged and wanting to learn, and transforming education in the classroom.”
Enjoy your own 360° relationship with UDT
Miami-Dade County Public Schools is but one of many organizations that have discovered the advantages of a trusted advisor relationship with UDT. Contact us today and let us demonstrate how we can help you reduce the risk, cost and complexity of deploying and managing IT solutions.