George Lucas Educational Foundation
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A photo of a high school student using a smartphone.

In my last two posts, I covered the transition to Open Educational Resources (OER). This transition can start when a school or district commits to making devices available. However, it's not simply about the device.

Trust and Leadership

I have been working with 1:1 and non-1:1 environments over the past four years. I have consulted with countless districts on what needs to be planned in order to make this transition practical, successful, and sustainable. Unfortunately, the first question I am typically asked is, "What device is best to impact student learning?" While this is an important question, it's not the first one you should be thinking about when planning your transition. The driving force behind any technology initiative is this: Innovation in the classroom begins with trust.

In all of my research and experiences working with schools, this is the common idea that schools gloss over. Technology integration is not about devices, nor is it about apps. Simply put, it's about challenging our students' thinking and trusting in our classroom teachers to develop and design creative paradigms for instruction.

Ultimately, effective leadership is at the core of trust. District leaders must look to develop a culture shift that starts with trusting those individuals they put in place to lead their initiatives. District leaders must also be open to thinking outside the box when it comes to developing technology plans. They need to understand that we don't buy or integrate technology like we used to do 10-15 years ago. Technology is constantly moving and evolving, and while we as educators must keep up with it, we must also balance our approach to integrating technology. The school or district that moves too quickly or tries to stay too far ahead of the curve may soon find itself in a hole.

Once you've established trust and had many conversations with all stakeholders in your school community, your school or district must set goals. It's always healthy to have a district goal, but similarly, to create school-based goals around technology integration. Every school in the K-12 spectrum will use these tools differently. Therefore, I suggest developing goals for each school building. I've done this by creating PLCs around technology integration within each building. Every month we connect, share ideas, and ensure that we are consistently looking at our goals as we move forward.

5 Ways to Plan a Tech Initiative

These goals can be viewed in a broader context by listening to what's coming from the U.S. Office of Educational Technology. The Future Ready campaign is providing roughly $2 billion to support new standards for e-rate and connect up to 99 percent of American schools, among other goals. While this campaign will surely provide more access within schools, there also needs to be commitment from school leaders to sustain this momentum.

In The 1:1 Roadmap, I suggest a route for district and school leaders to follow. Much like the Future Ready campaign, I suggest that there is no single path but rather many avenues to explore when designing a sustainable technology initiative. Every school and every district will approach these initiatives differently. What's more, districts shouldn't spend too long in the pilot phases of technology integration. The reason is that pilot initiatives can sometimes resemble longitudinal research, and while this is happening, an entire generation of students may miss out on access and opportunities to devices and digital resources. Instead, I suggest the following planning phases:

1. Begin With the End in Mind

Develop goals or a vision for technology integration. Begin by surveying all staff and students to ensure that all voices are heard. This will give you baseline data for measuring the growth of your initiative as well as starting out with everyone feeling comfortable about the decision. It should never be a top-down decision, and it should be reexamined and developed yearly.

2. Useful Data

Use the data gathered to select an instructional model for devices. Schools will want to look at their current infrastructure to ensure that it can handle a host of new addresses. Additionally, schools will want to look at access points and get a heat map of where the greatest saturation of address requests is happening in the building. Ultimately, when selecting a device, it should come back to what students and teachers feel comfortable with, while keeping in mind what your infrastructure can actually support.

3. Management and Privacy

Depending on what device you select, district leaders should develop a management system to ensure device safety and security. This type of mobile device management (MDM) system also provides a consistently updated inventory. In some cases, MDM systems can help district technology leaders push content and resources remotely to devices. Additionally, district leaders will want to become familiar with CIPPA, COPA, and FERPA to ensure student privacy.

4. Develop Workflows

Depending on the device you select and the quantity you use, this will be vastly different. Many schools that I work with have a foundation of Google Apps for Education. This environment has served school districts well and is being used widely by colleges and universities across the nation. However, many districts have recently adopted Microsoft 365 to integrate as well. Regardless of the workflow you integrate, district leaders should listen to the voices of all who submitted to the aforementioned survey of staff and students.

5. Support

Districts must commit to supporting these initiatives consistently. There should also be a tiered approach to professional learning offerings. Much like we differentiate our instruction, we should do the same for different levels of professional learning. Ultimately, the professional learning opportunities should resemble a conversation and allow time for staff to connect, share, and learn from each other.

In the comments below, please tell us how your school or district planned and carried out its technology integration program.

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Adam J. Stryker's picture

So many relevant points in this posting. I want to quote many paragraphs putting them into an Executive Summary or infographic and have it distributed to leaders natonally.
I've always said that for all the talk about differentiation for students, it's bizarre that we ignore our professionals in the classroom.
We glorify start-up tech companies and their abilities to iterate nimbly and quickly. Our school cultures reflect something quite the opposite at times.
For example, the old model for textbook adoption seems counter to the new products that publishers and open resources offer. As we move to adaptive technologies with powerful data that is crowdsourced via Knewton/Microsoft, how do we evaluate and correct our course more nimbly, say every few months? Current funding for educational resources are too centralized and deny autonomy at the school and classroom level.

"Innovation in the classroom begins with trust."

Kristin Hudson's picture

Thank you for sharing your site. This could be an excellent resource to use in the classroom for reading, especially with the integration of tablets and BYOT (bring your own technology).

Kristin Hudson's picture

Our district has a lot of technology available in our classrooms, but most of the teachers are not knowledgeable enough to consistently use it through instruction. This is mainly due to it being placed in the classroom and then being basically told to just use it. We never received any formal training or time to really become familiar with the equipment and all that it could do. Does anyone have any tips for using interactive websites in the classroom on Chromebooks? The classes I have been observing are using a lot of instructional time just to get students logged in and to the correct website.

Mike Rupert's picture

Our district is going 1:1 in 2016. Our district tech committee is currently going through the process of best procedures to making this happen. Your post offers solid but simple tips for how to tackle this task.

Grace Tukurah's picture

I teach in a K-12 International School in Nigeria and we have been working on integrating technology into our classrooms. Like you mentioned, one of the major questions that has driven the discussion is, "What device are we going to get?". I see that the more important question should be, "What do we hope to achieve with this integration and how can we achieve it?". We do have our limitations; internet availability is sometimes sporadic and not very fast and bandwidth is a challenge sometimes. The school body is very small and the elementary school students (who make up a majority of the school's population) probably will not need to use the internet very much anyway.
We do have concerns over protecting the data and privacy of the students and also ensuring that technology use in the classroom is a tool and not a distraction or burden to teachers.
The students seems more excited about the technology integration than the teachers. It would be quite a significant change for many teachers as majority of them do not allow students to use any sort of devices in the classroom as they are often seen as a distraction.
Teachers would definitely need a lot of training and advice on how best to use technology (when each student has their own device) in the classroom.

However, I also feel that the average student already spends a significant amount of time outside of the classroom, working with touch enabled devices and screens. Therefore, it would not hurt them to have a good amount of tech-free time in the classrooms as well. So while I am enthusiastic supporter of tech integration, I do have more than a few reservations.

Debra Woods's picture

I am a future teacher, and I was wondering about integrating technology into the first grade classroom. For instance, you mention of using data to select the kind of device that you will integrate into the classroom. My question will we use data to select the device we want to use in the classroom? The important and number one question should be what type of device will students and teachers be comfortable with? However, it is a great idea to integrate technology into the classroom such as Reading roots its a program that target the needs of beginner readers.

John S. Thomas's picture
John S. Thomas
First & Second Grade Teacher/Adjunct Faculty Antioch University New England, former Elementary Principal

Debra, I agree that what device we put into the hands of students must be right for the grade level. We used to give PC laptops to our youngest and they were challenging for many to navigate. Many argued that since kids would grow up to use PC's they should use them in all grades. I'm glad we are moving past that for so many reasons. We must utilize technology devices that will engage and support student learning. Technology will look so different when these kids are out of school so there is no reason to choose devices that adults use unless that device is the best for the classroom setting.

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