The 1 to 1 Learning Revolution: Are you ready?


Gundlach


David J. Gund­lach, Ed.D., WASCD Board of Direc­tors
Deputy Super­in­ten­dent, Oshkosh Area School District


In the past few years a new learn­ing tool has been mak­ing its way into schools and class­rooms through­out the state. An increas­ing num­ber of dis­tricts are explor­ing or imple­ment­ing 1 to 1 pro­grams designed to pro­vide stu­dents with per­sonal access to tech­nol­ogy on a daily basis. This is all the more sig­nif­i­cant given the resources required for such an imple­men­ta­tion at the same time that pub­lic edu­ca­tion is expe­ri­enc­ing dras­tic fund­ing reductions.

Why 1 to 1?

While there are many rea­sons why schools are imple­ment­ing 1 to 1 ini­tia­tives they are all rooted in the redesign of edu­ca­tion around the skills nec­es­sary to com­pete in a global econ­omy. The 21st cen­tury learn­ing model takes aca­d­e­mic con­tent to a higher level by inte­grat­ing themes such as global, finan­cial, civic, health, and envi­ron­men­tal lit­er­acy. This model also focuses on instruc­tional activ­i­ties that pro­vide stu­dents with an oppor­tu­nity to learn life and career skills, learn­ing and inno­va­tion skills, and infor­ma­tion, media, and tech­nol­ogy skills.

21st Century Outcomes

A school sys­tem that pro­motes this model needs to pro­vide stu­dents with oppor­tu­ni­ties to demon­strate their skills and knowl­edge through con­struc­tivist, mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary, projects. Dis­tricts that have embraced this par­a­digm shift are often first to imple­ment 1 to 1 pro­grams. The pur­pose of these pro­grams is to allow teach­ers to redesign their instruc­tional deliv­ery sys­tem to be rich in rig­or­ous and rel­e­vant projects. This requires stu­dents to have the tools nec­es­sary to com­plete these projects, which is the sole pur­pose behind the allo­ca­tion of resources nec­es­sary for a suc­cess­ful 1 to 1 learn­ing environment.

What is a 1 to 1 program?

There are many ways to pro­vide stu­dents with suf­fi­cient tech­nol­ogy access to be clas­si­fied as a 1 to 1 pro­gram. One of the first ways that dis­tricts exper­i­mented with this con­cept involved the instal­la­tion of a class­room set of tech­nol­ogy where each stu­dent could sit down at their own com­puter. This started with the tra­di­tional com­puter labs housed in rooms that were repur­posed to han­dle the sys­tem. As com­put­ers changed and Wi-​Fi became more per­va­sive, this type of 1 to 1 even­tu­ally trans­formed into carts of lap­top com­put­ers or tablets housed in classrooms.

Another type of 1 to 1 pro­gram that is gain­ing in pop­u­lar­ity involves stu­dents pur­chas­ing and bring­ing in their own tech­nol­ogy. These pro­grams are referred to as Bring Your Own Device or BYOD. BYOD pro­grams have the ben­e­fit of reduc­ing the costs nec­es­sary to pro­vide each stu­dent with a device but also have many chal­lenges. The first hur­dle that a dis­trict needs to over­come is the design of the dis­trict net­work to accom­mo­date these devices and allow them to access Wi-​Fi resources. New and effec­tive tools are now avail­able to help dis­tricts offer resources to stu­dents and staff in a BYOD envi­ron­ment while not com­pro­mis­ing on net­work secu­rity and con­tent fil­ter­ing. The largest hur­dle revolves around the fact that a stu­dent or staff in this envi­ron­ment could be using any num­ber of tech­nolo­gies as a learn­ing tool. A teacher could find them­selves in a class­room of stu­dents with Win­dows lap­tops, Apple lap­tops, Android devices, iPads, and Chrome­books. The teacher needs to design their learn­ing activ­i­ties with this in mind and any school sys­tem embrac­ing BYOD needs to pro­vide a series of open, web-​based, soft­ware appli­ca­tions that are avail­able on all platforms.

The last type of 1 to 1 envi­ron­ment involves each stu­dent being pro­vided with a stan­dard piece of tech­nol­ogy that they can con­fig­ure for their per­sonal use on a daily basis. This type of 1 to 1 is the most costly but is also the eas­i­est and most effec­tive to imple­ment. It has the ben­e­fit of allow­ing a dis­trict to con­trol most of the vari­ables and ensure the design of the learn­ing envi­ron­ment is con­sis­tent for each learner. This type of imple­men­ta­tion also pro­vides the dis­trict with greater flex­i­bil­ity as they can deter­mine the hard­ware and soft­ware and design the learn­ing activ­i­ties around these systems.

What Sup­port Does a 1 to 1 Pro­gram Need?
When a school dis­trict decides to imple­ment a 1 to 1 pro­gram, they often unveil them with a great deal of media cov­er­age, fan­fare, and with high expec­ta­tions. To ful­fill those expec­ta­tions a dis­trict needs to be mind­ful of the added sup­port required to achieve suc­cess. The fol­low­ing sup­ports need to be dif­fer­en­ti­ated based upon the needs of the staff mem­ber or stu­dent involved:

Infra­struc­ture, Infra­struc­ture, and more Infra­struc­ture
When a dis­trict imple­ments a 1 to 1 pro­gram they often dou­ble or triple their fleet of tech­nol­ogy. Each piece of tech­nol­ogy requires its own high-​speed, wire­less, con­nec­tion to the inter­net to be effec­tive. This often taxes dis­trict tech­nol­ogy infra­struc­ture and always serves to high­light any inad­e­qua­cies in the design of the net­work. Involv­ing a ven­dor who has expe­ri­ence in design­ing net­works for this type of sce­nario is money well spent. Be sure to antic­i­pate growth beyond the ini­tial instal­la­tion and ask the ven­dor for ref­er­ences where they have designed and imple­mented sim­i­lar systems.

Pro­fes­sional Devel­op­ment
One of the most impor­tant sup­ports for any suc­cess­ful 1 to 1 imple­men­ta­tion is early and ongo­ing pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment. This can occur through tra­di­tional pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment classes where teach­ers and admin­is­tra­tors learn new aspects of a given tech­nol­ogy tool. How­ever, the most effec­tive model for pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment involves embed­ded sup­port that occurs in the nat­ural envi­ron­ment of the prac­ti­tioner. Many dis­tricts are employ­ing tech­nol­ogy coaches to ful­fill this role. These pro­fes­sion­als pro­vide devel­op­ment on tech­nol­ogy enhanced ped­a­gogy that is inte­grated with mul­ti­ple areas of the Com­mon Core State Standards.

Sup­port for Admin­is­tra­tors
A crit­i­cal com­po­nent nec­es­sary for the suc­cess of any 1 to 1 ini­tia­tive is build­ing admin­is­tra­tor sup­port. As with any new pro­gram there are always issues that need to be resolved and it is imper­a­tive that the build­ing admin­is­tra­tor receives sup­port and assis­tance from dis­trict lead­er­ship. This sup­port often takes the form of tech­nol­ogy exper­tise so that the admin­is­tra­tor can under­stand and help artic­u­late what can and can­not be done from an instruc­tional tech­nol­ogy per­spec­tive. It is also ben­e­fi­cial for the admin­is­tra­tor to receive pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment and an oppor­tu­nity to use the tech­nol­ogy that stu­dents and staff will be provided.

Sup­port for Teach­ers
Most suc­cess­ful 1 to 1 ini­tia­tives start by pro­vid­ing teach­ers with the tech­nol­ogy at least a year in advance of the stu­dents. This allows them to begin the process of cur­ric­u­lar redesign nec­es­sary to prop­erly lever­age the new tech­nol­ogy. In addi­tion to increased tech­nol­ogy access, teach­ers need a safe envi­ron­ment to ask and obtain answers to their ques­tions with­out the appear­ance of igno­rance in front of their stu­dents. Lastly, teach­ers require ini­tial and ongo­ing pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment prefer­ably embed­ded in the class­room envi­ron­ment in which they cur­rently work.

Sup­port for Tech­nol­ogy Staff
One area of sup­port that is often over­looked is that pro­vided to the instruc­tional tech­nol­ogy staff. These staff mem­bers are the front line sup­port for teach­ers and stu­dents as they inte­grate tech­nol­ogy into the learn­ing process. It is imper­a­tive that these indi­vid­u­als have the lat­est tech­nol­ogy so they can learn how to sup­port it before it becomes inte­grated into the learn­ing envi­ron­ment. By pro­vid­ing them with these tools, the tech­nol­ogy sup­port team has the oppor­tu­nity to dis­cover and cor­rect prob­lems before they arise.

Sup­port for Cur­ricu­lum Staff
Cur­ricu­lum staff have a key lead­er­ship role in any 1 to 1 ini­tia­tive cen­ter­ing around their respon­si­bil­ity in the resource approval process. Soft­ware is just one more type of edu­ca­tional resource that the cur­ricu­lum staff have the respon­si­bil­ity of approv­ing. The cur­ricu­lum team can often become the choke point slow­ing down tech­nol­ogy acqui­si­tion. A process should be designed that is fluid and fast to allow the cur­ricu­lum pro­fes­sion­als the oppor­tu­nity to approve appro­pri­ate resources in a timely fash­ion. Lastly, the cur­ricu­lum staff should be pro­vided with the same pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties as any embed­ded tech­nol­ogy coaches.

When imple­mented prop­erly, 1 to 1 ini­tia­tives can help pro­vide a rig­or­ous and rel­e­vant learn­ing envi­ron­ment giv­ing stu­dents oppor­tu­ni­ties to demon­strate pro­fi­ciency in 21st cen­tury skills. How­ever, pro­vid­ing the hard­ware and soft­ware to stu­dents is just the begin­ning. Before a dis­trict decides to go down the road of 1 to 1 they should first con­sider the sup­port net­work nec­es­sary to ensure suc­cess. By pro­vid­ing sup­port on the front end to admin­is­tra­tors, teach­ers, tech­nol­ogy, and cur­ricu­lum staff, a dis­trict can ensure that the resources ded­i­cated to their 1 to 1 project will be money well spent.

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