Sunday, June 06, 2010

Going One-to-One? Something to consider FIRST

Recently I've been hearing of districts that have either already gone one-to-one or who are in the midst of the planning stages for it. Very exciting news for the students and teachers in those districts, to be sure, and certainly not a decision to be taken lightly, no matter HOW much money your district has.

But, in the cases I've heard there was one very important piece missing from the discussion. There was a lot of talk about what kind of laptop to purchase. Mac or Windows? Laptop or netbook - or even, now, the ipads?There was plenty of consideration given to the network's infrastructure and whether or not it could handle the demands of having every student online at the same time. There was ample discussion about how to handle lost or stolen or broken equipment, and that's absolutely necessary. And, there was plenty of discussion about the logistics of imaging all those laptops and summer procedures, etc. There was even some discussion about whether or not to allow students to put decals on their laptops.

But, in my thinking, the biggest question of all was not asked. And that is, "What does teaching and learning look like in a one-to-one school?" And, there are follow-up questions to that one. Like, "What will it look like if it's successful?", and, "What are the 'look-fors' when observing?"

That leads to another question. Assuming you have an answer to what teaching and learning looks like, and what the 'look-fors' are, then the next question should be, "Is our faculty ready for this?" A corollary to that is, "Does this faculty share our vision?" And, "What skills does our faculty need to have in order to realize the vision of what teaching and learning looks like?" Beyond that is, "How does our Professional development have to change in order to a) get the buy-in to the one-to-one vision, and b) get the teachers the skills they need to facilitate learning in a one-to-one school?"

But, it doesn't stop there. We've now stopped saying that "kids just know this stuff", and we're appreciating the fact that they don't know it, and they need instruction on it. So, once your vision of teaching and learning is solid, and you have an idea of the kinds of assignments and projects your students will be asked to do, then you need to ask the next question, "Where will our students acquire the skills they'll need in order to function at a high level in a one-to-one setting?" What does your "computer curriculum" look like now? Is it Microsoft Office alone? That's not going to be nearly sufficient when you're one-to-one. If the only skill they will need is Office, then your vision isn't an informed one. That would mean that you're going to be seeing a lot of students typing a lot of papers, and if that's all that a one-to-one program is, then save your money. All you'll have is what you already had, but now you'll also have a lot of computers. You're going to need to revamp your Business curriculum in order to teach the skills to the students. Will it be a required course in 9th grade? Should it start in middle school? What exactly ARE the skills they'll need?

So, the questions about logistics are fine, but they're surely not the first questions to ask. Even the question about affordability and sustainability aren't the first questions to ask. Your first questions to ask have to be those that define your goals. If the goals aren't worthwhile, then save the money. But if they are, then do whatever you can in order to make it happen.

I'll pull those questions out of the text - just for convenience. If you're in a one-to-one building or thinking of going in that direction, THESE, I believe, are the questions to ask first.

    1)    What does teaching and learning look like in a one-to-one school? Is that what we want?
    2)    What does it look like if it's successful? What does it look like if it's NOT successful?
    3)    What are our 'look-fors' when observing a classroom in a one-to-one setting?
    4)    Is this faculty ready for the change? Does this faculty share our vision for the desire to move in this direction?
    5)    What skills do the teachers need to have in a one-to-one setting?
    6)    How should our professional development change in order to ensure that they have both the skills with the laptop as well as the understanding of the new pedagogy that is required?
    7)    Where will the students learn the skills they'll need? What exactly are those skills? When will they begin to learn them?

In the next post I'll share my thoughts on what those skills for students and teachers might include.

Edited 6/6//10 11:27 AM
One more thing to ask yourself: Does our school's filtering policy support or interfere with our vision. One district I was in is already in one to one, yet they block Google Docs. Further, they offer no alternative to it. There's one tech person who will be out of a job very soon if that doesn't change - IMHO, at least.
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1 comment:

Marge Runkle said...

Your seven questions should be carved in stone so that every educational entity thinks about the commitment, training, planning, and continued support of a technology enriched environment.