Maybe It’s Not Time for 1:1…Yet.

ipad touchAnyone who knows me knows that I love 1:1 programs. Giving students the flexibilty to learn and assess their growth in different ways can be such a positive experience. It can offer teachers the latitude to lead their classes in innovative ways and create opportunities for differentiated learning in ways that traditional instruction can’t. I was an advocate for 1:1 learning every chance I got…until I wasn’t.

I still think that 1:1 programs should be the goal that all of us in Education Technology (Education as a whole) have and work toward. Just because you have a 1:1 classroom, doesn’t mean that everything needs to be done using technology- but the teacher has the option and they get to make that choice. I’ve just backed off advocating for them as much because I see so many instances of 1:1 learning done hideously wrong.

I hear stories of teachers having carts of devices rolled into their classrooms (unexpectedly or not) and suddenly everything is supposed to change about their instruction. They may have had one ‘training session’ on how the device works or what to do with them, but many times these sessions don’t address what’s really important: the instructional use of the device.  I (naively) assumed that when teachers went 1:1, they had on-going instructional support. Turns out, many teachers don’t have that, and the devices end up as a distraction or a toy.

I can’t blame teachers for this. Their job is hard…really hard. Unless you’ve been a teacher (for more than a year), you probably can’t imagine how diffuclt it is. There are amazing rewards in the classroom (and they definitely outweigh the drawbacks in most cases), but it’s hard to be a teacher. It’s impossible to be a teacher to a class of students AND try to reimagine your entire classroom and lesson structure while you’re teaching to incorporate technology.

So where do we go from here?

I changed jobs this summer. The school district I work has their eye on the 1:1 prize, like most school systems that know what’s best for kids. The innovative part of what we’re doing in CCSD is a teacher-eduction program called the Digital Learning Cohort (DLC). Our focus is primarily on instruction and instructional use of technology. We talk very little about the devices in training sessions (maybe we need to talk about them more?).

What I love about this program (and what seems to make it a successs), is the three year commitment and the sharing of devices. Teachers commit to three years of work on this. Changing to a 1:1 model is a huge change to how a classroom works, and it’s not something can can be done over the course of a couple of sessions. It requires a major shift and having ongoing support is key. Second, is sharing the devices. On the surface, sharing devices with another teacher to get to 1:1 seems counterintuitive, but it actually makes sense.

When teachers share a cart of devices with a colleague (optimally, someone whose room is close by) the have a teammate. Maybe they teach similar subject or grade, but maybe not. Either way, they have a person that is in the same situation they are- they understand the challenges and can celebrate the successes with them. Couldn’t they do this if they both had a cart? Absolutely, but what makes the sharing most important is that teachers get some downtime from the devices. Changing the paradigm of your classroom is big work, and it’s ongoing work. If someone drops off tens of thousands of dollars of devices in your classroom, there’s a lot of pressure (either real or imagined) to perform. Giving teachers the permission and ability to ease into a 1:1 classroom can make it a much more positive experience for teachers.  If we can support teachers as they chase excellence, that will lead to better outcomes for our students- no matter the road they take to get there.

11/6/2015 Update: See a presentation overview of our DLC model.

What successes and challenges have you seen with 1:1 education?

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