5 Challenges To Avoid In A 1:1 Learning Classroom

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5 Challenges To Avoid In A 1:1 Learning Classroom

by Sharon Sakai-Miller, Director of Technology Integration Services at the San Lorenzo Unified School District

Improving student access to technology for 1:1 learning would be simple if it was just a matter of figuring out how many devices were needed and how much they would cost. What makes the transition to 1:1 complicated is that it is more than just a funding puzzle, it is a pedagogical conundrum.

At San Lorenzo Unified School District, we took a teacher-based approach to our 1:1 initiative to ensure that student learning was at the heart of our deployment. All teachers were invited to apply to be a Project LEAN In teacher, which would afford them a dedicated class set of devices and up to $1,000 in stipends to pay for their professional development time. Since we believe the teacher, not the devices themselves that make the difference, the 1:1 carts follow the teacher wherever they teach in the school district.

The top five headaches we have worked hard to avoid are unreliable technology, poor use of devices, babysitting, breakage/wastefulness, and top-down deployment.

Unreliable Technology

We were very strategic about the implementation. We took the long view, starting with the end in mind—what did student success look like? Since our student needs were so diverse, we accepted a broad range of teacher proposals. To start teachers off on the right foot and bolster user confidence, we began by updating our wireless infrastructure and planning for everyone to be on all the time.

Upgrades to our infrastructure were planned to support a growing mobile learning environment and active learning. We enhanced user experience by increasing support at the central office (IT technicians), site level (computer media specialists) and expanded teacher support (teachers on special assignment).

Poorly Used Devices

Under-utilizing carts that held our devices and simply substituting worksheets with digital copies would lead to poor use of the devices. We found out that some sites were more inclined to integrate technology into their curricula so we started there. If we had mathematically distributed carts, we would have many idle carts at sites that clung to traditional didactic methods. I admit that there is an imbalance of cart distribution, but by our fourth roll-out phase next year, this should work itself out as the late adopters come on board.

Some teachers were initially motivated to apply in order to make their classrooms “paperless,” which we accepted with the expectation that their goals will evolve to student-centered ones. The follow up workshops and other professional development opportunities that are offered are designed to lead them to explore ways technology helps students learn in ways not previously possible. We want students to be intrinsically motivated to think, now that I’ve learned this how can I use it to solve problems?

Babysitting and Passive Learning

Research shows that students of low socio-economic status use technology more passively than students of high socio-economic status who use technology for active, project-based learning. There is a place for quiet, individualized tutoring but computer labs and multimedia should not be used for babysitting.

Passive learning is neither lasting nor engaging. We focused on teacher professional growth to promote Innovation Age learning. We offered personalized learning through badges, collaborative professional learning immersed in 1:1 environments and continuous improvement through cycles of inquiry in mini-cohorts. We sought to “walk the talk” through rigor, relevance and reflection.

Breakage/Wastefulness (time and money)

There is never enough time or money, so we banked on purchasing the right equipment to minimize breakage, promote accountability, and protect instructional minutes. By virtue of going with a teacher-based distribution model, teachers are far more vigilant about classroom management. Students are more accountable when they are the only (elementary) or one of six (secondary) to use a given device. Breakage in Project LEAN In carts is far lower than in shared carts.

To promote organized distribution and charging of Chromebooks (grades 2-12) and tablets (PK-1) we use the LocknCharge carts because the baskets cut down tremendously on the time it takes to distribute and collect devices (six to eight points of distribution instead of one) and the efficient charging system. We labeled each color-coded basket with matching device numbers to make it easy to take a quick visual inventory.

Teachers have expressed appreciation for the secure design of the carts, their durability, and easy operability of the remotes.

Top-Down Deployment

It’s tough to get excited about things that are mandated and since transitioning to 1:1 takes a lot of positive energy, that can pose a big problem. The district community identified technology integration as a priority and set aside funding that was needed for hardware, professional development and technology support. By inviting teachers to participate when they were ready— in a way that mattered to them— 1:1 caught on in a way we couldn’t have planned. We owe the rapid growth of our 1:1 initiative to our teachers who shared their experience and newfound expertise.

We’ve learned a lot of lessons the hard way, but by avoiding these five headaches we don’t have any bitter pills to swallow…yet. Bottom line: we empower students by empowering their teachers by making our 1:1 deployment teacher-based.

Sharon “Sam” Sakai-Miller is the director of Technology Integration Services at the San Lorenzo Unified School District near Oakland, California. After teaching for more than 10 years, she served at three Bay Area County Offices of Education and as a curriculum coordinator for math, science, and instructional technology. As an educational consultant, Sakai-Miller presented in 18 states. She is the author of Innovation Age Learning: Empowering Students by Empowering Teachers (ISTE, 2016)

image attribution flickr user jarisjolund