Carl Hooker - Tech Learning

Carl Hooker

Learn all about Carl Hooker's 1:1 iPad district.
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Tech & Learning has been working with Carl Hooker, the Director of Instructional Technology for Eanes ISD, since his first iPad pilot rollout back in 2011. He is a regular blogger and speaker at our events, but we haven’t checked in with him about his day job since March 2012. T&L Managing Editor Christine Weiser sat down with Hooker at the recent Texas Tech Forum to get an update.

TL: Can you give us a snapshot of your district?

CH: We’re a one-to-one, K-12 iPad school district just west of Austin, Texas. We have 8,000 students and are located in a land-rich, property-wealthy area with just 3 percent of low-economic/free and reduced lunch. It’s very beneficial to have that kind of community support because they realize the importance of technology in our schools.

TL: What have you been working on lately that you're excited about?

CH: The last time we spoke, we were in the midst of finishing up our high school pilot. Since then, we've expanded the program to all of our K -12 students. Now that we've gone one-to-one across the board, our focus this year has been: How do we use it in a more engaging fashion? It’s not about just having cool apps, but how do we make the technology invisible—just part of the everyday classroom? That's something that takes time and it takes a great group of educational technology support. I'm lucky to have that with my team of ed techs (aka iVengers).

The second thing that's happening is that teachers are shifting the way their lessons are being taught. We're seeing more of a shift to student-focused, student-centered, student-driven, enter buzzword here—it’s become about authentic learning. A lot of teachers are asking us: How do we make the shift to project-based learning, and how do we make it effective? They're seeking us out for training, which is great.

The third thing that's shifting is the physical classroom itself. We’re in the early stages of researching how we can make our learning spaces more flexible without actually tearing down the walls. What kind of furniture is conducive to this? Those old all-in-one attached desks and chairs aren’t ideal for this new learning environment.

TL: How does the one-to-one program compare between the younger and older grades?

CH: At the elementary level, I've been blown away by how quickly the teachers have adapted to it. And, I think their classrooms are a little more conducive to doing more collaborative work using the tools because they aren't quite so test driven. Kids are very comfortable getting on the floor, sitting in different places, and working together on projects. And, of course, iPads just make it that much better, because they're able to grab these, go anywhere, and they have a long battery life.

At the secondary level, it started out very much like we see in Ruben Puentedura's SAMR model, where the tool was used for substitution and augmentation right off the bat. The students used the tablets to take notes, look for their textbooks, and use a calendar feature to stay organized. As they get more comfortable with the tool, students are starting to get a deeper sense of knowledge because they're actually able to go in and investigate things a lot further.

TL: What do you think are some of the key foundational pieces that need to be in place for a successful one-to-one roll out?

CH: First, you have to have buy-in across the board. We use that term kind of loosely, but this is the most important piece. Also, some decisions can be too focused on the device or a larger political agenda.

The conversation has to start with the people who will be using the device. Ask them: How does this work for you, instructionally? Why is this important? And then you can get into the how and the what. You need to start with the “why,” and that should be the thing that drives you.

Next, you need to have champions on board, from campus administration to teacher leaders to district leaders to technical support. Everyone needs to be on the same page moving forward.

And then, don't forget the parent group. This group needs to receive clear communication and have the opportunity to hear the issues and plans. We don’t just need to train our teachers, but we need to train our parents in our community, too. These devices are coming home to them, and they need to know how to use them, too.

Take your time and be thoughtful. For us, it took us about 18 months to two years to get from that first early pilot to full-fledged implementation.

TL: Who did you involve in the pilot and why?

CH: Our initial pilot was only 70 folks, and about half of those were students, including some special education students. We also chose key teacher leaders and let them try the devices for a few months and then tell us what they liked and didn’t like.

When we moved to our full pilot, we had an application process. Any high school teacher could apply to be a one-to-one classroom teacher. From those applications, we chose 38 11th- and 12th-grade teachers, which allowed us to focus on those two grade levels.

TL: What’s next for one-to-one?

CH: The good news for districts out there that thought they would never be able to fund a one-to-one is that technology continues to be faster and cheaper. I think Internet access in general is becoming more ubiquitous. I think the push for bandwidth at the home is getting easier and becoming cheaper.

There is going to be a point, and I don't think we're there quite yet, where the device won't matter as long as you can pull up an Internet browser. But right now, there's still something to be said about having an actual native app experience.

Of course, the reality is, there's always going to be some sort of divide, and so it's our job as a school district to provide the resources for these kids, either while they're at school, or giving them something they can take home.

TL: Will you be talking about the future of tech in your Tech Forum keynote in Atlanta?

I'm very excited to be there and I don't want to give too much away, but Atlanta Tech Forum attendees can expect to take a digital journey to the past, the present, and the future of technology—and not just in schools, but in the world around us. My hope is that by looking at the past and where we are in the present, as well as speculating on what the future might look like, the audience will walk away thinking: If this is the world that our kids are going into, we need to do some major shifts in education to get us there. So, it'll be fun and interesting.

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