It’s one thing for school to have technology and a very different thing to implement it—and do so effectively. As McREL’s Howard Pitler wrote recently in THE Journal, data gathered from observations in 60,000 schools showed that, even in classrooms with numerous technology devices available, 63 percent of teachers used no technology at all.
So, before you embark on a one-to-one laptop initiative, here are some tips for getting the most out of your school’s program.
- Do your homework. Read up on lessons learned from Maine’s one-to-one initiative, for example, and what the NSF-funded study of Henrico County Public School’s one-to-one program found.
- Decide if the school has the funding to purchase all of the computing devices or will allow a mixture of school- and student-owned computers. Student-owned computers will save you some money but will require a technical services department with the capacity and skill to support multiple devices.
- Decide upon a nucleus of cloud computing services and software tools that will be consistent across the school. This will help teachers spend their time teaching content not software applications. Look for free, high-quality services such as Google Apps for Education.
- Integrate the school’s curriculum with instructional technology applications and 21st century pedagogy. Identify research-based software/applications/games that can support learning in core content areas. They need to be compatible with the operating system on the computing devices and supported by technical staff.
- Plan for regular, specific, mandatory professional development. Integrating instructional technology is an ongoing learning curve that never ends. Teachers need help in learning how to use and integrate effective technology tools into the curriculum.
- Monitor and evaluate progress. Teachers will pay attention to what their leaders pay attention to. If leaders keep a close eye on the types and frequencies of instructional techniques, data-driven decisions can be made that will focus the school, teams, and individuals on what is working and what needs to change.
- Decide how much access students will have to the network. Internet filters are essential, but they should not inhibit real-time learning. Trust the teachers to block/unblock resources under the oversight of the school/district technical staff/leadership. Sanction misbehaving individuals rather than taking access away from the masses.
- Plan for obsolescence of software and hardware. It is critical to have a plan to replace or update computers and software as they age. This plan should include the development of a way to assign financial and technical resources. Sometimes long-term leases are more cost effective than hardware purchases.
- Develop a plan to repair and replace broken equipment, batteries, and printers. A good insurance plan goes a long way.
- Provide other technology to supplement the core devices. These include presentation devices and peripherals such as headsets, microphones, etc.
- Plan for a robust wifi network. You must assume that all devices will be on the network at the same time. When you think you have a good estimate of the bandwidth needed, double it so it will last into the future.
- Last but certainly not least, have on-site technical support. A lack of support will be the biggest complaint of teachers and will negatively impact the learning program. This can include a mix of school staff and student volunteers.
What priorities have we missed? Do you have lessons to share from your one-to-one experience?
Matt Kuhn is an instructional technologist with McREL.