Classrooms have become increasingly tech-focused, though technology alone isn’t enough to change a classroom. Instead, it’s a mix of the right training, tools, and support. Powerful digital resources become transformative only when the teachers and students using them are engaged and understand how to use tech to its fullest potential.

Chula Vista School District is the largest elementary school district in California. Of our 30,000 students, 34 percent are English learners (EL), and 52 percent are students living in poverty. We’re located approximately five miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, making EL instruction a top priority in our schools.

Five years ago, we began the journey to implement a 1:1 initiative across our 41 schools, for third through sixth grade. During this experience, we’ve learned a lot. These are our five key pieces of advice for rolling out a one-to-one initiative in an elementary district.

5 lessons learned from a 1:1 district

1. Create equitable access

With such a large district, we have teachers and students coming from a wide variety of backgrounds, each with their own individual experiences, strengths, and challenges. As administrators, it’s important to us to ensure that what we’re sharing with our student body is relevant and meaningful.

Prior to rolling out our implementation plan, we engaged researchers from Rutgers University to conduct a study on internet access in our communities living in poverty. We found that over 90 percent of households did in fact have access to the internet, but often through a cell phone, rather than a computer or tablet. This signaled a significant gap, where students had unequal access to technology. A 1:1 initiative builds a bridge to access for students who may not otherwise be able to work digitally.

Related: One-to-one: Overcoming financial and other obstacles

5 secrets for rolling out a successful 1:1 initiative

Chula Vista has built a culture around collaboration to meeting the needs of all of our students. We used California’s Local Control and Accountability (LCAP) program to set goals, plan actions, and leverage the needed resources to build our 1:1 strategy.

2. Create an interdependent system

Rather than calling our system centralized or decentralized, we have coined it “interdependent.” With this concept, every single stakeholder group has something to contribute, and we work interdependently to move and meet student needs. This includes working with local business leaders, parents, and faculty to support learners.

Prior to rollout, we engaged our stakeholders—specifically teachers—and held a hardware summit. We invited vendors, including Panasonic, Lenovo, and Asus, to demo their products. Teachers, administrators, and students were able to test the hardware and vote on which tools they liked best.

This way, we knew what our stakeholders wanted from the beginning. We were able to see what would provide value to teachers and students.

About the Author:

Dr. Gloria Elena Ciriza is a passionate, equity driven leader, committed to ensuring all students have access to a world class education and the opportunity to thrive in nurturing environments that support social emotional wellness. She currently serves as executive director of curriculum and instruction for the Chula Vista Elementary School District (CVESD), which is California’s largest K-6 district.

Dr. Matthew Tessier has been serving the educational community for the past 20 years, and currently serves the Chula Vista Elementary School District as the assistant superintendent of innovation and instruction services where he leads the Innovation Department, Research and Evaluation Department, and the Instructional Services and Support Division.


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