Strong Intentions Lead To Amazing Unintended Benefits #LeadershipDay13

Strong Intentions Lead To Amazing Unintended Benefits #LeadershipDay13

This post is for Leadership Day 2013. For the past five years, Scott McLeod has asked school leaders to blog about how they support the integration of technology in their communities as a way to support other school communities and school leaders. For more information on this, please check out this post from Scott's blog. The following is my contribution for this year.

As we made the case to create a 1:1 environment at Burlington High School a few years ago, we were clear in our intentions to provide our teachers and students with the most current technological tools to support their learning. Our premise was that if we were going to prepare our students fully for the world outside of our doors then we needed to give them hands-on experience using the tools that they will have access to when they leave us.

Let's face it, no one can argue the fact that technology is ubiquitous in the "real world." Therefore, we are well past the point where we should be arguing about whether or not it is appropriate to provide or allow these tools in our classrooms.

As we enter year three as a 1:1 high school and year two as a 1:1 middle school, we are excited about the expansion of 1:1 to the elementary level where we will also be 1:1 in grades 1, 4, and 5. Of course, one of the most frequently asked questions is how this initiative has improved test scores. But then again, improving standardized test scores was never a goal of this initiative. Looking back after just two years of 1:1, we prefer to focus on some of the unintended benefits that this initiative has had. These are things that are unquantifiable by any standardized measures.

Here is a partial list of some of the things our students have done due to their experiences as students in a school where everyone has access to iPads:

  1. Presented at regional conferences
  2. Been highlighted by national educational media outlets EdWeek and Edutopia
  3. Served as consultants for app developers
  4. Consulted with our state's Commissioner and Secretary of Education
  5. Run their own technology conference
  6. Created viral videos that have been noted by national media outlets
  7. Taught university professors
  8. Assisted with product design
  9. Consulted with districts from all over the country on 1:1
  10. Created a successful blog that has followers from around the globe

The video below is a presentation I did for our school committee recently highlighting these exciting occurrences and reinforcing the fact that their decision to provide an educational environment where technology is prevalent for staff and students has created opportunities for our students that they never would have had.

We could never have predicted some of these things would occur, but the important thing was that we were willing to take a risk and have faith in our staff and students. In my opinion, betting on your staff and students is something that school leaders should do every time!

cross-posted at

Patrick Larkin is the Assistant Superintendent for Learning of Burlington Public Schools in Burlington, MA and the former principal of Burlington High. He blogs about education at