Administrators should place goals above devices when it comes to one-to-one

mobile-deviceIn the world of education, it is rare to not hear discussion about providing a device for every student. We read research articles about it and we read newspaper articles about the latest school to move to a one-to-one environment.

As a superintendent, I receive weekly eMails about marketing devices, protective cases, learning management systems, mobile device management systems, and professional development. In a world so inundated with information about moving to one-to-one, one can quickly get drawn into the most important question that needs to be asked: Why go one-to-one?

Our school district made the leap to one-to-one this year at the high school level. Yes, we purchased mobile device management, cases, devices, professional development, a learning management system, and insurance—but before we did all of that we spent time wrestling with tough questions.

(Next page: Prioritizing goals instead of devices)

We dialogued about why we wanted to go one-to-one. We talked about what we wanted students to be able to do. We discussed how this would transform teaching and learning. We explored student engagement and decided we needed to increase it. We considered curriculum and how it would be developed, different, and delivered. We came to believe (and repeated, whenever anyone would listen) that it was not about the device—it was about the transformation of teaching and learning. A device does not ameliorate all challenges in education—we still rely on the skillful art of our teachers bringing their passion to their profession and working hard to reach every student each day.

Just a few months into our rollout, we have learned many lessons. We have not yet conquered every obstacle, but we will. We are modeling daily that we ourselves are learners. We have embraced how a device in the hands of a skilled educator can impact instruction, and how an engaged student–learning in ways I would not have imagined–can explore deeper levels of collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication.

It isn’t about the device. It isn’t about every student having a device. It is about what we do with those devices and how we can transform learning.

Dr. Stacey Schmidt is the superintendent of Porter Township Schools in Valpraiso, Indiana. She has taught every grade from preschool through 8th grade. Prior to being the superintendent of Porter Township Schools, Stacey has been the assistant principal at Flint Lake Elementary School, the principal at Parkview Elementary School, and the assistant superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment–all in Valparaiso, Indiana.