September 2018 marked a significant milestone for my school district. When our 3rd and 4th graders came back after the summer break, each of their classrooms had a full set of Chromebooks, one for each student. This marked the completion of our 5-year plan to be fully 1-1 in grades 3 – 12. During the last five years, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to gauge our progress and reflect upon some of my observations during this time period. In no particular order, here are some of my thoughts on this 5-year journey:
- Responsible use After the first year of implementation, we learned that some of our high school students found the 1-1 environment distracting. Since our 1-1 program originated at the high school, we developed a freshman seminar program, a class for 9th graders that meets approximately 8 times during the first semester. This course covers pretty much all topics that fall under the umbrella of responsible use, including managing distractibility, copyright/fair use, and creating a positive digital profile.
- More about responsible use Over the past five years, I’ve also observed another phenomenon:Over time, students have accumulated a lot of personal devices, largely in the form of a smartphone, and they are acquiring these devices at much younger ages. I’ve gathered lots of anecdotal evidence that students are acquiring their own personal devices at younger and younger ages. When we first went 1-1 back 2013, 22% of US children aged 0 – 11 years old had a smartphone. In 2018, that number had increased to 47%. During that same timeframe, children in the 12 – 17 age group has seen this percentage go from 62% to 91%. A separate report found that, in 2017, the average age of a child in the US getting a smartphone was 10.3 years. In response to this trend, we have expanded our responsible use instruction to the younger grades, particularly in grade 6, the first year that students take their devices home.
- A shift from traditional instruction to contemporary instruction Most of us know what traditional instruction means. In this model, the teacher is the possessor of information and imparts his/her knowledge on students, typically in the form of a lecture. I still believe there is a time and place for such instruction. However, with contemporary instruction, the teacher presents and idea, often in the form of a question, and students use available resources to construct knowledge for themselves. Think of a simulation in math, where students manipulate quadrilaterals in an attempt to develop a precise mathematical definition. I believe there are several benefits to this approach. Students are more engaged in the learning process, attain a deeper level of understanding, and they are more equipped to transfer their knowledge to new situations.
- Nothing happens overnight The shift described in the prior point continues to evolve. Staff are supported by a number of Instructional Technology Coaches (ITC’s), we’ve created Guiding Principles for Instructional Technology, and we’ve spent a lot of time applying the SAMR framework for technology adoption. These efforts also go way beyond technology integration and really get at redefining teachers’ instructional practices. Everything is moving in the right direction but patience is key.
- Don’t forget the network SETDA (State Educational Technology Directors Association) issued guidelines for internal connections and internet speeds, based on fact that demand for rich media in schools is increasing exponentially. Nothing will railroad a technology initiative more than performance and reliability issues with a school network. During our 5-year one-to-one roll-out, we made steady progress towards building a reliable and robust network. Our internal wired network has 1-gig speeds to the desktop and 10-gig speeds between our data closets and school buildings. We have just over 2 gbps bandwidth capacity to serve our 3200 students and approximately 600 staff members. We have installed access points in all classrooms and high capacity access points in larger, common spaces (auditoriums, cafeterias, etc…). We have enhanced security on our wireless networks and network uptime has been improved by the inclusion of redundant systems, regular maintenance, and support contracts.
One final thought. This journey (as I describe it in the beginning of this post) does not have an end. I will continue to monitor all aspects of our 1-1 program and it will evolve over time in ways that I really cannot predict. The rapid pace of technology change requires constant attention and vigilance!Steve Ouellette