A 1:1 technology initiative necessitates dedication and enthusiasm from teachers, students, administrators, families, and other participants in educational communities. Over the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with the Saint Francis Xavier school in Winooski, during their 1:1 planning phase, and last week they officially rolled out a 1:1 model across their middle level classrooms.
I was fortunate enough to be part of their careful planning process, and witness important and thoughtful commitments to details such as student voice, equity, family partnerships, collaboration, and teacher learning. Although still in the early stages, I would unquestionably describe their rollout as a success.
Here are a few questions I asked the teachers, technology specialist, and administration about their 1:1 model.
With the many different options available, how did you decide on your technology platform and specific device?
Saint Francis had established a Google Apps for Education domain the year before, and wanted to stay in that domain. They chose Google for the accessibility and collaboration abilities, and because it allows for, as they put it, a “classroom without borders.”
The bigger decision was device. The school focused on tablets because of a factor they termed “movability”; students can easily be outside or in, and the tablets are very interactive.
With so many tablet options, they ordered a few different models and had students test drive each model.
I thought this was a great way to get students involved in school decision making.
What are your current and/or anticipated challenges?
“Controlling the enthusiasm!”
There is a lot of excitement amongst the teachers and students with this technology initiative, but “ we don’t want to move so fast that we’re overlooking something.” With that, the students are gung ho and teachers certainly don’t want to stifle the energy.
One teacher commented on the tablet itself as a possible challenge. “To some students it is considered a toy…time to chat.” They then offered one of the best practical solutions I’ve ever heard: “Well, if they are going to chat in the beginning, at least I can encourage them to do it in French!”
“The challenge of Google Classroom.”
The much anticipated teacher/student communication, collaboration, and workflow system has been one of the biggest challenges for some of the teachers. There are some details to working in Classroom that teachers and students had to figure out (even some they haven’t), but most teachers agree that the system provides a great power of collaboration. One teacher was pleasantly surprised how quickly students logged into Classroom, searched videos, and then they posted them as comments to the announcement feed to quiz and help each other.
What makes you happy about teaching in a 1:1 environment?
Commented one: “Students know so much, and now there is so much freedom to explore. The other day they were using sources all over the place and were able to explore other options… access allows them to explore. I might say ‘do this’ and then they all do it their own way!”
Another remarked that “the relationships we are building with the kids is different… I’m getting past the fear of not being in complete control.”
And the technology integration specialist said that the thing that makes them most happy about teaching in a 1:1 environment is
“The step back. After all this work – and the freak out! – now it is just fun. I enjoy solving the daily problems and embracing the beta world. I know things are going to break and we can get through it. Enjoyment of ‘wow – we are there and we are really doing it.’ The teachers make me happy – their willingness to push the envelope – and know it is okay to make mistakes.”
What one piece of advice would you give an educator/technology integration specialist/principal starting out with a 1:1 implementation?
- “Students know more than you — use them! They know more than you think they do.”
- “Make sure you know what students are experiencing on their devices – it is important to understand the student experience from a student perspective.”
- “Don’t be afraid to ask yourself, am I actually changing how I teach or is this a glorified worksheet?”
- “Find a digital space to consolidate resources, website, spreadsheet, etc.”
- “Engage with your team.”
Congratulations to Saint Francis on their successful 1:1 rollout!