I am blessed to work in a school district that has oodles of technology. We have Promethean boards in almost every classroom, teacher computers with Internet access, document cameras in every classroom, and all of our students in 6-12 grade have a netbook. The resources the students have at their fingertips are endless. The technology is a powerful tool in our classrooms; well at least for the teachers that are utilizing them. So why wouldn’t they?
Well, in some instances the cart was put before the horse. I do not want this article to be a gripe session. That is not my intent. I would however like to give some pointers from my perspective of how to make a 1:1 environment in your district have success. The best way to do this is to give you a numbered list in the order in which things need to happen. I will do my best to explain the “why?” in each number.
1. First, build a network that can handle the load you are going to put on it. If you don’t, you are going to create frustration for teachers and students. When things do not load fast enough or do not load at all, the devices will get put away and the paper and pencil will come back out. Teachers don’t have time to watch browser spinners spin around while websites are trying to be accessed.
2. Second, make sure you staff enough people for tech support, as well as coaches that can provide professional development for your teachers/students so they can learn how to use the new devices. Teachers have so much on their plate that they do not have time to sit down and learn something brand new for themselves. An eLearning coach can show them how to use the program/equipment in less than half the time and can provide ongoing, continuous support. This also lowers frustration levels. Do I sound like a broken record? We must keep frustrations low for all. That is key!
3. The technology vision must be shared/owned by the district’s superintendent. He or she must share the vision with building principals and administrators. They must have an understanding of how the technology works and they must model using it with the teachers. For example, they could use a Google doc for a faculty meeting agenda or minutes versus the good old paper copy that everyone picks up at the beginning of the meeting and then tosses it in the trash on their way out. School principals and administrators can make or break a 1:1 environment. They must buy into it for it to be successful. They need to encourage the use of the devices and harvest creativity in their teachers to help keep students engaged.
4. The most important piece is “this vision” must be shared/owned by the teachers. How and why is technology being used? How will it help student achievement? How will it help a teacher’s job become better, not necessarily easier? It totally should not make it harder or more frustrating. Again, provide consistent and continuous support from an eLearning coach. Provide time for your teachers to see the coach on a regular basis. If teachers have to give up lunch or personal time, it may not happen. Remember, many teachers are parents too. They have to take their kids to school or daycare. They have to pick them up after school or take them to an extra curricular activity. They have plans to make, papers to grade, parents to contact, webpages to update, data to study, and a teacher’s list is never ending. We cannot always expect them to give up personal time to learn something that they are expected to use to perform their job. Your school could do teaming, blocked scheduling; provide an alternative schedule once a week where each teacher gets an extra period off to go to a PD in the building. There are many ways it can be worked right in the school day.
5. Lastly, teachers must be expected to use the new technology. If teachers are not expected to use the technology, then most will keep on doing what they always have done and keep getting what they always have gotten. They have to understand that the technology is not going away and that it is here to stay. It is not just the latest buzzwords that will be around for a couple of years and then just forgotten about when the next thing comes along. Does that happen in your school district too?
The key to any program is that everyone must share/own the vision. It should never make anyone’s job more difficult. Frustration levels have to stay low. The vision must begin from the top and shared down. Everyone must feel a sense of ownership in the vision. Expectations must be set for teachers and students. If these guidelines are followed, I think a 1:1 initiative could and will be very successful.