$23M price tag to transform digital education in Park Hill School District

PLATTE COUNTY, Mo. - The Park Hill School District is looking to transform education in their classrooms through a unique digital learning program. The program is called FLiP, short for the “Future Learning Project.”  It’s a $23 million dream that residents in the district would help pay for if they approve a tax levy increase on April 8, 2014.

Teachers say the project goes a step beyond the one-to-one laptop initiative that has been implemented in neighboring districts such as Kansas City Public Schools, Liberty and North Kansas City.

"We're looking to transform the learning environment, not just provide a device to our students and teachers. We're able to connect students to what’s really going on in their lives. We're increasing engagement in students just by the fact that we're making classrooms relevant," Matt Carlson said, a teacher at English Landing Elementary.

Carlson is one of five teachers who were part of the FLiP pilot program that was rolled out to 5th grade students. He helps students and teachers understand the interactive technology that the district hopes to eventually roll out to every classroom.

Wednesday, Carlson used a history lesson to teach students the importance of copyright laws. Students were expected to create a digital timeline of the American Revolution and include pictures from the web representing the historical events. Carlson asked his students to use Google Images, but reminded them to pay attention to the photos they wanted to use.

“Copyright was just a small piece of our lesson today but it fit in naturally and it was relevant to our conversation. We didn’t make it an event to talk about copyright but it’s part of what they're doing as publishers as consumers,” Carlson said.

He said the classroom environment looks unconventional; the classroom is noisy as students work in groups and talk to each other. But according to Carlson and district leaders, collaboration produces results in student achievement.

The district said the students who participated in the FLiP pilot program showed significantly higher levels of problem solving, engagement, communication, creativity and relevancy than the students who weren’t in FLiP last year.

But, digital learning is costing local districts millions of dollars and pilot programs like Park Hill’s haven’t been around long enough to measure multiple years of student achievement. But teachers like Carlson believe an investment in digital education needs to happen now.

"If the world has changed, the educational sector needs to change too. It’s not fair to have world change and we stay stagnant," Carlson said.

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