With those past technologies, it was not unusual for computers to sit at the side of the classroom gathering dust because the teacher didn’t know how to use them or to see a Smartboard used as simply a fancy chalkboard. Tom Murray, the Director of Innovation for Future Ready Schools (an initiative Illinois PTA has written about before), has laid out six keys to a successful 1:1 implementation:
- Begin with the Why and Focus on Learning Outcomes. Districts must ask why they want to go 1:1 and what they want their classrooms to look like in five or ten years. They also need to consider how teaching and learning will change with the availability of technology.
- Personalize Professional Learning. Teachers must have relevant, on-going, engaging, hands-on professional development with technology in order for the potential of that technology to be realized in the classroom. One-time technology “boot camps” that focus mainly on how to use a device or application doesn’t change classroom instruction.
- Redesign the Space. As Mr. Murry states, “Many of today’s classrooms have amazing 21st century tools sitting in 20th century learning environments.” Adding technology to classrooms with desks in rows facing the teacher, just like those in 1890, will have limited benefit. In order for teachers to help students build collaboration, problem solving, and critical thinking skills, the classroom needs to be flexible and provide space for movement, collaboration, and inquiry.
- Leadership and Culture Set the Tone. A culture of innovation requires leaders who promote risk-taking and empower teachers to fail forward just like startup companies do. Those leaders also need to model the instructional practices they want teachers to use in the classroom when conducting faculty meetings and in-service professional development.
- Ensure a Robust Infrastructure. An old laptop with a dying battery that takes five minutes to boot up does not help learning in the classroom. School districts must not only plan to purchase technology but also plan on how and when to upgrade that technology. Those upgrade plans must extend beyond the technology in students’ hands—a flaky Wi-Fi connection hinders learning as much as or more than a slow laptop.
- Equity in Access and Opportunity. While there are many good reasons for installing blocking software on student-accessed technology (e.g., pornography, gambling, etc.), it is important to not over-block needed content and resources. This is especially true in 1:1 implementation when students will need to use devices at home. Districts also need to consider how to increase access for those who do not have an internet connection in the home.
These are all important points that PTAs should be asking their district about when asked to help fund technology in their school. Mr. Murray notes that this list is only the beginning of the conversation, and Illinois PTA has covered other questions PTAs should be asking about technology. We all want our children to have the best in their school, and PTAs often find it difficult to tell a school “no” when asked to make purchases, but without critical questions about technology use before providing PTA support, education outcomes will not change and PTA funds will have been wasted, just like those dust-gathering computers a decade ago.
Photo ©2012 by Michael Coghlan under Creative Commons license.