SPARTA, NJ –This summer, in addition to summer reading and summer projects, Sparta Township students will be earning a digital driver’s license.  Part of the 1:1 initiative, the students will need the license in order to receive their computer in September.

The 1:1 initiative will put a laptop in to the hands of each Sparta High School and Sparta Middle School student.  They will have the computer to work on in school and at home.

The digital driver’s license is a program developed at the University of Kentucky, according to Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Staff Development, Dr. Daniel Johnson.  The program consists of “three age-targeted online video lessons followed by a multiple-choice test,” Johnson said.  “Students must earn an 80 percent to pass.”

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“We already have 100 students who have finished,” Johnson said.  “They have all scored 100 percent.”

Students in high school will cover digital communications, ethics and digital laws, improving their digital literacy.  The middle school videos seek to improve digital literacy by going into more basic concepts including an explanation of how the internet works.

Elementary students will also be part of the 1:1 initiative with each classroom getting a computer cart with laptops for each student.  The younger students will not be bringing the laptops home.

This initiative is an expansion of the two-year program to make classrooms paperless through the use of G Suite for Education, formerly called Google Apps for Education.  The district is entering the third of a projected three year roll out to move all classrooms to G Suite. 

The 1:1 initiative adds additional tools to make it possible.  There is also a three year roll out for the laptop program with training opportunities for students, staff and parents, commensurate with three levels of use. 

“We will assume all students and staff are on the beginning level,” Johnson said.  The roll out will start with substitution, using the laptops and G Suite tools in place of some components in the classroom. The next level will be augmentation, taking advantage of the tools to add new aspects to the lessons and finally redistribution where “truly blended learning is taking place in the classroom and beyond.”

“We anticipate this to change expectations for everything,” Johnson said.  He anticipates the 1:1 initiative and G Suite initiatives will lead to reevaluation of fundamental concepts such as homework and time management.   

With their digital driver’s licenses in hand, students will have training sessions run by Eduscape, during the first days or weeks of school.  Johnson said Eduscape’s session will reinforce and expand on concepts the students were exposed to in the digital driver’s license videos. 

Eduscape will also host training sessions for staff and parents Johnson said.  The sessions will be videotaped and posted to the district website for those who cannot attend the evening session. 

Johnson said he and Superintendent Dr. Michael Rossi spoke and listened to all of the faculty to explain the programs and hear concerns. 

“The staff is excited,” Johnson said.

Help desks will be available in the media centers at the high school and middle school.  They will be operated “with a combination of media specialists, IT staff and student interns,” Johnson said.

According to Johnson many colleges also use the G Suite platform that contains tools such as Google Docs, Drive, Sheets, Forms and Hangouts along with all of the core services that are available to the public through gmail, such as contacts and calendar.   

“It’s exciting,” Johnson said. “We are preparing them for success beyond us.”