Sunday, March 6, 2016

7 Biggest Surprises of 1-to-1 So Far

Last August we launched into 1-to-1 at Bolivar High School. After years of dreaming and planning we were thrilled to be off and running. We elected to go with HP Chromebooks as our school provided device, but also allowed students the option to use their own device, provided it would run the Chrome browser or be compatible with Google Classroom and Google Apps.

Overall, we have been very pleased with our implementation. There were definitely a few early challenges we had to overcome. And there are some challenges that remain.

1. From our survey data, we learned a majority of parents report that they really don't know exactly how the device is being used for learning. So we have some work to do in this area. I don't think it was for lack of trying though. We held parent meetings leading up to the implementation and have showcased examples of the devices in action through social media and parent newsletters.

As a result of the survey data, our student digital leadership team is planning a Digital Learning Showcase in conjunction with our regular Parent Open House. We are going to have tables set up manned by students who can demonstrate different ways they've used the devices for learning. We'll let parents play Kahoot. And we'll display examples of student work that has been developed using technology. It will be completely student led.

2. It's challenging to get filtering right. Our intent was to filter content at home as well as at school. There proved to be some technical challenges with the original plan our tech department had developed. We ended up choosing Go Guardian as the solution to our home filtering concerns. The only thing we filter at home is adult content.

Filtering at school has also been challenging. Our tech people tell me our current filter is to blame, and we will likely have a new provider next year. It seems we can never be sure what is being filtered from day to day. We wanted to keep YouTube unblocked since so there is so much opportunity for learning there. Of course, there is also plenty of material that isn't right for school, or maybe for anywhere. 

Most social media is unblocked at school. Exceptions are Facebook, Snapchat, and a few others. Again, social media has become much more than a tool for social. It is quickly becoming a major source of business, networking, marketing, and learning and sharing. Maybe we should consider unblocking Facebook too? The decision to keep it blocked was made on the belief that it had fewer benefits to learning than some of the others.

3. Teachers can help lead professional development. Our training plan wasn't nearly as comprehensive as some others. We didn't want to treat everyone as if they were in the same place in their learning. We wanted it to be more customized. Our philosophy is that professional learning is 51% the responsibility of the individual. The school is there to support and create conditions for adult learning as a partner for the other 49%.

So most of our PD was done through sharing with each other and by sharing resources. We did provide teachers with a Chromebook a full semester in advance of our launch to help give them a head start. We held a few Tech Cafe meetings, where teachers met together to learn and share. And, we provided a few lessons online that teachers could work through on their own.

Once a month, we have a group of teachers lead learning for the rest of the faculty by sharing ways they have used digital tools to support learning. The teachers are deciding which tools and practices to share and then leading the staff through some related learning. So basically we asked teachers to own this piece and help other teachers get the information they need to grow.

4. Digital distractions are a concern for teachers. Nearly 60% of our teachers indicated that students were constantly distracted from academic work by the Chromebook. But only 7% of students we surveyed admitted that the Chromebook is a regular distraction. The discrepancy in the perceptions of our students and teachers raises several questions. Do students not think they are distracted but they really are? Is there a difference between what students and teachers consider distracted? Are students in complete denial? Are teachers hyper-sensitive to student multi-tasking?

I'm not sure about the answers to these questions. It calls for further exploration. However, I do think fears about distractions can be magnified by educators. There have always been distractions in the classroom. Students don't need a device for this to be an issue. When I see students slumped over in desks, with their eyes heavy and nearly lifeless, I see a distracted learner in that situation too. Daydreaming. Passing notes. Reading a book. There are lots of ways students have been distracted now and in years past, even without devices.

I think the key to the distraction problem is to create a more relevant, engaging learning environment, one where students are actively learning and not just passively consuming information. I detail a vision for this type of learning environment is a recent post, 9 Ways to Make Learning Irresistible. We will continue to have conversations about this and find ways we can support students and teachers. Dealing with distractions in our connected world is something most everyone faces.

5. There were some early logistical issues we had to work through. Nearly 90% of our students are taking the Chromebook home daily. The others check the Chromebook in and out in our library at the beginning and end of the day. At first, this process was a little crazy. But we now have a few student workers who completely manage the check-in and check-out routine every day. It took some time for us to work out some of the details. As well planned as we were, the devil is always in the details. How do we collect the device when a student moves away? How do we track damage? How do we track loaners? Collect payments? There were a few bumps along the way, but most of these systems are working well now.

Everyone has use of a Chromebook during the school day, but we require students to pay a $25 insurance fee to take the Chromebook home. We wrestled with this issue quite a bit. On the one hand, we don't want students to miss out on access because of lack of financial resources, but on the other hand, we felt there would be greater personal ownership if there was an upfront investment. We tried to make that cost reasonable.

6. We need a more concerted effort around digital citizenship. We did a few things early on to communicate expectations to students. We had some lessons on Google Classroom. We had a guest speaker provide assemblies related to cyber safety. And of course, we have an acceptable use policy. But I still think we need to do more. 

Our teachers are great about using teachable moments to share wisdom about online use. And digital citizenship is part of the curriculum in a couple of courses. But I would like to see us develop a more comprehensive approach that is really embedded in our culture. We've talked about having a system where students can earn greater access, to social media for instance, by completing certain activities and demonstrating positive leadership in this area.

7. And one of our best surprises is that damage to the devices is less than we expected. That's a real credit to our students. They have done a great job taking care of the Chromebooks. Mostly, we've had some broken screens, a few devices that were lost or stolen, and some hardware failures covered by warranty. But overall, we are doing very well in this area. We were able to add 800 devices in our building without adding any additional staff. I don't think that would be possible with any device other than a Chromebook.

There are a lot of moving parts to make a successful 1-to-1 program. Beyond the logistical concerns, the biggest shift has to be in how we teach and learn. Most every teacher in our building has taken steps to use the technology to benefit learning. But we definitely still have room to grow. We didn't mandate how the devices were to be used. Instead, we worked to develop a framework of why technology can be so powerful in shifting agency for learning to the learner. 

I can't say enough about how our technology department has supported this effort. They really make all of the details work so we can focus on the teaching and learning aspects. If they weren't so committed to this project, there is no way we would be where we are today.

Question: What are challenges you see with 1-to-1? What is your best advice for a school considering going 1-to-1? What questions do you have? I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

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