In September 2008, Crystal Turner received her first assignment as a principal at Aliso Elementary School in Lake Forest, California, part of the Saddleback Valley Unified School District. With a large population of English Learners and economically disadvantaged students, Aliso was struggling to meet the achievement targets of the district and state. In her first meeting as Principal, Turner unfortunately informed the staff that the school was entering Program Improvement with the State. The goal of the school was now to address the learning needs of students with new methods.
Visiting the iRead program in Escondido, California convinced Turner an iPod touch program would work at her school as well. Upon arriving back on campus from her visit, Turner began working with one of her sixth grade teachers, Kristin Thomsen, to get an iPod touch mobile learning lab into Kristin’s classroom. That afternoon Turner ordered the lab and Thomsen began asking students how to use an iPod touch.
As the cart arrived at the school, Turner and Thomsen focused upon student fluency through comprehension. However, after just two short weeks they realized that students were indeed experiencing fluency gains at unbelievable rates, but that the students were highly engaged when using the iPod touch devices. Thomsen quickly transformed utilization of the iPod touch from assisting in reading comprehension to a productivity piece used throughout the day to engage students and foster higher levels of thinking. Instead of just replacing pencil and paper in the classroom, Aliso Elementary was now moving to effectively integrate mobile 1:1 technologies to transform the way teachers teach and students learn. The program was dubbed iEngage, as a primary aim was to engage every student every time.
With Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) Grant, more teachers and students than ever began using iPod touch and iPad devices for learning. Through the EETT grant, 30 language arts and algebra (all levels of algebra) at the high school and intermediate school level received training on teaching with mobile devices and created curriculum to address areas of student instructional need.
In addition to the EETT grant, iEngage expanded to many other schools through Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs. The BYOD philosophy spread throughout the district. It brings both new challenges, but also new successes to instruction. With the BYOD programs SVUSD is experimenting with many models, from an iOS only device model to bring anything you like, to Chromebooks.