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6 tips for a successful one-to-one rollout

Educators share their advice when it comes to planning and deploying one-to-one programs.

Nowadays, one-to-one initiatives aren’t anything new. Even I, a journalist with no experience as an educator, have successfully deployed and maintained a one-to-one iPad Mini initiative for my two children.

But rolling out a school- or district-wide one-to-one program takes a lot more than choosing a device. It’s a fairly massive undertaking if done correctly, because before school leaders and educators even choose a device, they have to outline teaching and learning goals and find the right digital content to support those goals.

One of the first steps is to figure out what you want teaching and learning in your district to look like. Logical next steps are to determine the tools and actions to get you to that place, as well as involving all stakeholder groups along the way.

Here, educators from different school districts discuss how they successfully deployed one-to-one learning initiatives.

(Next page: Technology directors from two districts share their experiences)

The Ignacio School District in Colorado is in its sixth year of a one-to-one initiative for grades 3-12, and it supports BYOD as well, said Brian Crane, the district’s technology director.

California’s San Lorenzo Unified School District runs a one-to-one initiative of a different flavor, said Sam Sakai-Miller, the district’s director of technology integration services.

The initiative is teacher-based and runs according to teacher applications to be part of the program. The district asks teachers to describe their needs, what their vision of technology integration looks like, and what their leadership role is. Teachers who are selected receive a cart of Chromebooks that follows them during their tenure within the district–even if they move to another school inside the district.

As they have moved through one-to-one deployments in their districts, Crane and Sakai-Miller have become familiar with what it takes to make such a deployment successful.

1. Infrastructure

“The most important thing is to make sure you have a wireless infrastructure capable of handling the devices you’re bringing in,” said Ignacio’s Crane. “You’re setting yourself up for failure if your network isn’t robust enough.”

The district added 700 laptops and continually expands its wireless network, including adding wireless access points in each classroom and expanding capabilities each year.

“The No. 1 gripe is that a district’s infrastructure doesn’t support teaching and learning goals,” said Sakai-Miller. “The first summer after I entered administration, we tackled the whole wireless infrastructure. We mapped it out so that we could support everyone on, all the time. If we’d had bad infrastructure in [the beginning], it would have killed the program.”

2. Monitoring student use

Crane also recommends monitoring device usage if students are taking their devices home. The district uses Content Keeper to filter web access, because while the devices go home with students, they are still district-owned.

Classroom management is key as well. Teachers in Ignacio use an Impero software solution that combines network, classroom and device management.

3. Funding beyond Day 1

Ensuring adequate funding is essential, too–especially when it comes to device upgrades. Crane recommends looking beyond the initial device rollout that comes with a one-to-one program. “When you implement a one-to-one, make sure you have money to keep these devices at a usable level,” he said. “No one wants to use an 8-year-old laptop to run a program.”

4. Learn from those who do it well

Crane also advises visiting other districts with thriving one-to-one programs. Ignacio leaders went to the Farmington Municipal Schools district in New Mexico to observe the district’s one-to-one program. “It was very helpful to go and walk the building, to get a feel for what they were doing, and to see what was and wasn’t successful,” he said.

5. Content is key

“Where the rubber really meets the road is selecting high-quality digital content,” said Dr. Mark Edwards, senior vice president of digital learning with Discovery Education. During his time as superintendent of the Mooresville Graded School District, he led the district in a dramatic shift to digital learning environments and digital content.

“The juice that runs the engine is the content,” he said. “If you don’t have really high-quality content, people wonder what they’re supposed to be doing. It’s a critical piece, but unfortunately, a lot of the content out there is just repurposed textbooks.”

School leaders don’t want to spend district funds on devices only to use those devices to access PDF versions of dull content. Interactivity is key, Edwards said.

“The functionality within the content, the interactivity within the content, the links, the design around instruction within the content, matters a lot,” he said.

6. Professional development and communication

On a parallel track, Edwards noted, is professional development. “So often, PD is focused on device use or focused on surface utilization rather than the deep utilization that really ties to pedagogical change. The PD should be ubiquitous, rich, and differentiated based upon content areas, grade level, or area of need.”

“The communication, both internally with teachers, principals and staff, and externally with the community, is key,” Edwards said. “There’s a sense that everyone is working on this together.”

In San Lorenzo, teachers develop their one-to-one programs in teams and with the support of teacher mentors.

They attend training and mentoring sessions and have the opportunity for peer review as they share their ongoing experiences in developing a focus area and deploying the devices with students. Teachers also earn digital badges as part of their professional development.

“We honor and value our teachers–that’s why all of this is designed the way it is,” Sakai-Miller.

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