By Carl Hooker, CIO Advisor
In my last post I stated how being out in front of an innovation has its advantages, namely that making some mistakes are to be expected. Since then, we've had more than 20 districts visit us and at least twice that amount contact us for ideas, answers, and opinions on how they should set up their 1:1 iPad programs. While every situation is different, here are 10 things you SHOULD NOTdo when implementing a 1:1 iPad Program, with items 6-10 coming in this post (in no particular order):
6. Do NOT assume the entire community will be on board.
As great as the idea behind personalized learning can be, it can be a pretty severe mind-shift for those lay-people in the community. Add on top of that, budget cuts with staff time, and you can see how this can quickly turn into a no-win scenario. It's important to stress what the goals are and also to get both parents and teachers working with you to find solutions to little problems. However, that doesn't mean you give them the option to not participate. The most successful 1:1 programs have a universal understanding and expectation across the district about what can and should be accomplished. In the community, there is a common misconception that an iPad isn't a computer. If you pass a bond to buy computers, you need to make sure they understand that these are in fact tablet computers. The other item to stress is that this is a powerful classroom tool that now takes the place of the textbook, calculator, dictionary, etc. It might not do everything, but for the cost and what it will do, it's well worth the investment.
7. Do NOT evaluate the program solely with test scores.
It may be the easiest and most publicized metric to measure kids with, but it's far from the most accurate when you are talking about changing the culture of learning and customizing a student's school experience through a 1:1 program. Engagement, motivation, collaboration, communication and the desire to dig deeper into subjects were all items we measured through anonymous student and teacher surveys. With all of those improvements, it's what happens next—when the student goes on to college and post-college life—that's a thousand times more important than how they did on a random test. This item is closely tied to item 6 above when talking to the community about how the program is going.
8. Do NOT limit staff training to the summer.
Due to budgetary cuts, our high school teachers lost an extra planning period that was considered PLC time. This time was framed around Marzano's Professional Learning Communities and allowed same-subject area teachers to have a common planning time to grow and learn. On top of that, we cut back our instructional technologists across the district. Both of these factors could have killed the program and definitely kept us from transforming teaching and learning as much as we would have liked. Marzano and research from Project Red talks about how one of the key traits to successful implementation of 1:1 is a monthly training at minimum led by the principal and key leaders to give teachers the tools they need. Research also suggests that teachers will ultimately determine the success of the program, so it's worth investing in them. We have seen the error in our ways and will implement back some PLC time next year as well as add some support staff.
9. Do NOT expect email to be the best option for submitting work.
Being paperless has been a great cost savings for us. We've cut back on paper use by 22% in the first few months and that's only with two grade levels having 1:1 technology. While that's a great cost-savings, managing all of those digital files can be an issue for teachers. They no longer have to tote 187 papers back and forth to school, but now all of those papers will crowd their email inbox. Teachers at our high school have figured out how to use Gmail's filtering to help with this organization, but ultimately, a good content management system is needed. We just purchased our system to put in place for next year and hope that will let us save time as well as paper.
10. Do NOT let fear overcome your mission.
Everyone will go through a point in time where they doubt the idea of a 1:1 iPad program working. They'll think it's a fad. They'll think it's a waste of money. They'll complain about having to change. All of these and hundreds of other concerns will be raised throughout the implementation process. It is easy to get dismayed by the loud minority of critics out there. If there is any hope of your program being successful, the core team of administrators, teachers and students needs to be on the same page, speaking the same message. That message is plain and simple: This is not a technology expense, it's an investment in our students and their future.
Carl Hooker is director of instructional technology at Eanes ISD in Texas and blogs at Hooked on Innovation.