How to manage your one-to-one program after you hand out devices

After the Chromebooks and iPads are distributed, admins and IT teams must keep asking the tough questions

If there’s one thing schools have learned from the multiple one-to-one mobile device implementations that have rolled out during the last few years, it’s that they’re hardly “set it and forget it” projects.

Purchasing and handing out the iPads, Chromebooks, or laptops are just the first steps on a long path that must also incorporate ongoing professional development for teachers and training for students; the establishment of acceptable usage policies and procedures; management of device support, insurance, and repair…and the list goes on.

“As a one-to-one implementation matures, different things happen that you may not have considered at the outset,” said Scott S. Smith, Ed.D., who serves as chief technology officer at Mooresville Graded School District in Mooresville, N.C — a district with one of the most celebrated one-to-one programs in the country. “For this reason, it’s important to maintain a clear vision and purpose from day one.” For most districts, that vision should center on why the one-to-one initiative is a good idea and how it will change instruction, teaching, and the learning environment for the better.

“The focus shouldn’t be on the tools or the devices,” Smith cautions.

Breaking down silos

For a one-to-one implementation to succeed over the long haul, Smith said traditional educational silos that exist between the IT department and the curriculum directors must be eliminated. “These two departments can’t work independently and expect a district- or school-wide one-to-one implementation to work well,” said Smith. “IT can’t be over here doing its thing while curriculum is over there handling its tasks. Both have to be on the same page and sharing the same vision.”

To districts that are challenged by these types of silos, Smith said the best approach is to lay out the framework for one-to-one success early by identifying potential hang-ups and hurdles that could impede that goal. “Figure out how the two departments can compliment each other instead of working against one another,” Smith advised. “This is a major factor in the ongoing success of any one-to-one implementation, so it’s worth paying attention to.”

Ongoing PD

Ongoing professional development is equally as important, said Smith, and should be sustained over the life of the one-to-one implementation. “Professional development really never ends,” he points out. Make sure teachers feel as if they are supported and not just left to “figure things out” on their own, give them the opportunity to take risks (e.g., by using the devices to test out new pedagogical methods like blended and flipped learning), and use strategies like co-teaching and team teaching to support the district’s one-to-one vision.

“Professional development is going to look different in each district, Smith said, “but the underlying focus should be on letting teachers know that they’re supported from an instructional standpoint.” On the technical side, Smith gives this very basic piece of advice to schools that want to sustain one-to-one success for the long haul:  Make sure teachers know that if something breaks, help is just a phone call, text, or email away.

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