McALLEN – As the world of instant information and high-technology builds and gathers steam, McAllen ISD is making moves that put it at the front of the game.

McAllen ISD may be the largest district in the nation working to place the latest in mobile technology into the hands of ALL of its students – from high school seniors down to kindergarten – 25,000 in all. TLC3 stands for Teaching Learning in the Classroom, Campus and Community. 

To lead the transformation, the district assembled the Instructional Technology Cadre (Teams of students, teachers, administrators, parents and community leaders). They began a series of meetings since March. They developed a vision of 21st century learning and goals that center on teaching and learning.  

The transition has already begun. In September, some McAllen ISD students received mobile devices.  Then on September 26, the McAllen School Board approved the purchase of 5,175 iPad2’s and 425 iPod Touch devices. That huge shipment is set to arrive in a few short weeks. This is part of a district-wide revolutionary teaching and learning framework for increased academic achievement.

Those devices that arrive in late October/early November will be going to students whose teachers are members of the Instructional Technology Cadres.  “Together, these teams of students and teachers will pioneer Challenge Based learning and mobile learning in McAllen ISD,” said Dr. Ponce.  “They’ll lead the way with a framework built on 21st Century Learning – Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Creativity, and Communication.”

Soon after, all McAllen ISD students will be immersed in this cutting-edge move to infuse technological changes with 21st century standards.

When a child’s imagination is untethered by the mechanisms of the past, learning can truly be limitless. That’s the transformational essence behind TLC3- Teaching Learning in the Classroom, Campus and Community. 

It’s an innovative teaching and learning framework that McAllen ISD is developing to leverage powerful new technologies and merge them with challenge-based learning. This engaging multi-disciplinary approach fosters higher levels of engagement, innovation, and creativity while integrating the cutting-edge technology that students crave and desperately need.

“As a teacher, it really made me feel that we were going to catapult our kids into the technology driven world they are going to work in,” one teacher said. “You’re looking for more ways to feed that hunger for education, for knowledge.”

“So the challenge-based learning is going to move our teachers forward and move our students forward all together,” one McAllen ISD teacher said. “We’re turning a corner in technology that we have never turned before. It’s a better way to educate.”

This unique endeavor involves giants in higher education and the hi-tech corporate world – Abilene Christian University and Apple, Inc. The district revealed its plan at a special presentation October 18, at McAllen’s Andrew Jackson Elementary.

This enterprise began in March. Dr. Ponce met with a local minister who serves on the Board of Trustees at Abilene Christian University. At the time, he was also immersed in discussions with Apple, Inc. about the district’s plans for future technology investments. ACU enjoys world renown for its instructional technology. The plan includes assisting the district with finding innovative teaching strategies and funding resources.

“McAllen ISD gets it, and there is a vision that is really about helping our students prepare for their future,” Dr. Billie McConnell, Director of ACU's K-12 Digital Learning Institute, said.

“Once students leave here (school), they go home, they are playing four, five hours on all types of games and the graphics are incredible,” a middle school teacher said. “So they’ve been over-stimulated the night before, they get to my class and I can’t just tell them to get a pencil and paper. Their world just grinds to a halt and I lose them. If I can get a math app to compete with the graphics of their games -- that’s what I’m looking for.”

Nationally, more and more schools are moving toward electronic mobile devices to supplement or even replace traditional learning tools like textbooks and calculators. Many school districts have purchased iPads for students in a particular grade or particular school of a thousand or so students. McAllen ISD will introduce these technologies top to bottom on 33 campuses.

According to Apple, Inc., in an article published in the online publication eSchool News, about 400 school districts nationwide began moves this fall toward incorporating devices like the iPad to replace traditional tools like textbooks, dictionaries, calculators and other hardware.

Many teachers use apps (computer applications) to enhance learning. There are more than 5,000 educational apps available, according to Apple, Inc.