PACE Tablet Relaunch a Success

Nearly 17,000 new Amplify tablets are in Guilford County Schools students’ and teachers’ hands today, and staff reports the relaunch of the Personalized Achievement, Curriculum and Environment (PACE) project is going well.

Beginning in August, schools followed a staggered-rollout timeline to provide the new tablets to students. The final group of students received their tablets this month, and so far, Robin Britt, director of instructional technology for GCS, says feedback is positive.

“We’re really excited to get all the tablets distributed and in our students’ hands, so we can return our focus on excellent instruction and how the tablets and other technologies get us there,” said Britt.

The PACE initiative is funded by a $35.2 million Race to the Top-District grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The program launched in 18 middle schools in the 2013-14 school year with Amplify tablets manufactured by ASUS. GCS suspended the program about a year ago after concerns about the quality and safety of the tablets and related items.

The Guilford County Board of Education approved a new contract with Amplify in March, which provides new tablets, designed in collaboration with Intel Education. The new contract also extends the partnership for one additional year.

The new tablet is more durable and has a faster processor and WiFi antenna. The provided software is also better, since it had an additional year in development. The increased durability is making a difference in the number of damaged tablets.

So far, as of Monday, Nov. 17, GCS has exchanged 137 tablets that were broken (126), lost (4) or reported stolen (7). That’s compared to 1,874 exchanged in a shorter time period last year. This year’s numbers are less than one percent of the total tablets in circulation, compared to 13 percent last year. Amplify will replace up to 20 percent of tablets in these categories each year at no cost.

This year, GCS returned 659 tablets to Amplify for various issues, including screen problems, camera defects, communication and charging challenges. Amplify replaces those tablets at no charge, without a replacement cap.

Britt emphasized the PACE project is about much more than the tablets. “PACE is about personalizing learning for all our students,” he said. “The tablet is another tool our teachers can use to ensure each child is getting instruction at his or her level. It allows teachers to introduce a concept in class, create a quick quiz, and check in to see which students understand the lesson and which don’t. That immediate feedback means teachers can immediately try a different way to reach students.”

Teachers received intensive professional development over the summer, focused on personalizing instruction in the classroom, from looking at new ways to physically set up the classroom to creating small groups to receive and share lessons.

Parents are a key part of the PACE initiative. Part of the federal grant allowed Guilford Parent Academy to provide additional tablets to middle school centers that are available for parents to check out. The tablets are one more way families can access valuable engagement resources to help their children succeed in school.

Guilford Parent Academy led parent-information sessions about personalized learning and the tablets this summer, and staff continues to educate parents about the tablets and checkout process. Parents are encouraged to call their school’s media center for checkout hours and school-specific procedures for the mobile checkout labs. Prior to checking out a tablet for the first time, parents will be asked to complete a brief video tutorial and sign a parent agreement.