How to dispute one-to-one, mobile learning criticisms

“There’s a recipe for successful one-to-one and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) with lots of commonalities, but there’s also a recipe for struggle,” said Lenny Schad, CTO of the Houston Independent School District. “The important part is making sure everyone in the school community adopts the recipe for success.”

Superintendents must think about what successful systems look like, said Pam Moran, superintendent of Virginia’s Albemarle County Public Schools.

“Look at what you do as something across the entire system,” Moran said. “Policy sits at the board level, and if the board isn’t wrapped around an initiative, it will impact policy.”

It’s also important to assess a district’s readiness for a one-to-one initiative or other mobile learning initiative of any scope. “You can’t neglect any aspect of your organization. You need systems that are good at managing change,” she said.

Planning and measuring

Creating a strategic and coherent plan before taking action is key, said Thomas Ryan, retired CIO of Albuquerque Public Schools and the CEO of e-MMERSION Learning. “I don’t think administrators are taught government, and [often] there is not strategic plan brought together.”

When it comes to measuring outcomes, realistic expectations aren’t always easy to come by.

“Be realistic in what you’re going to measure,” Schad said. “Is measuring academic achievement in the first year realistic? Or is measuring teacher and principal readiness more realistic? It’s cultural change–it’s not just about the device.”

Communicating goals

And what does it boil down to?

“Communication,” said Karen Cator, CEO of Digital Promise –and this includes being able to pinpoint and describe a one-to-one initiative’s purpose to any stakeholder. “Name what you’re doing in a very succinct sound bite.”

That communication and clear outline will be necessary throughout a tech program’s rollout.

“Having goals of which you can remind constituents and the board–‘Here’s what we’re doing, here’s how we’re measuring effectiveness’–[is important],” Cator said.

“You definitely don’t want to promise test increases,” she said. “Tests aren’t measuring what we’re trying to teach our kids.”

“What are your goals?” Moran asked. “Are they to educate kids who are able to plan and conduct research and use critical thinking skills? Our technologies allow kids to do things they otherwise would not do. How do these technologies allow them to develop those skills?”

One of the biggest mistakes is expecting grand changes immediately after introducing devices, Schad said.

“People have handed kids a device and have expected magic to happen,” Schad said. “If we change instruction and content delivery, let’s make technology an enabler. We still have too many people expecting magic with just a device.

One-to-one and BYOD initiatives are successful when part of a broader goal.

“Is BYOD’s core strategy to bring about transformation?” asked Ryan. “BYOD is a part of giving students access, but it is part of a larger framework. Don’t look at it as the end goal–the end goal is to make sure everyone has great access to content and learning opportunities.”

Laura Ascione

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