Friday, January 17, 2014

Thinking of going 1:1? Here's some advice...

If your district is considering going to 1:1, read this first.  It may help you in your journey.

  • Figure out how long you want the program to run.  Knowing how you're paying for it for just one year, or even three, is not enough.  You will eventually run out of money and then you're in real trouble.  When a district goes 1:1 and then backs out of it, it looks like a real public failure.  So once you're in, you're kind of stuck with it.
  • How are you defining 1:1?  It doesn't necessarily mean that every student has to take a device home.  Consider putting a cart in every classroom.  It will cut down on breakage costs and teachers will have more control over device management.
  • Make sure that you include money for repair and replacement of devices.  And the staff to do all of that stuff.  This initiative will increase the stress and work on your IT crew tremendously.
  • Get warranties!
  • Make sure that whatever model you are buying is not on its way out.  We have had trouble with devices that could not be repaired or replaced, even though they were under warranty, because they were an older model. 
  • Think about passing breakage costs on to your students and their families.  That is a decision that is very specific to each district because it depends on your demographic.  For us it keeps the students a little more cautious and defrays costs.
  • Have your acceptable use policies iron clad.  Parents will eventually complain, and you want to know what all of your use polices are.
  • Will you have any internet filters up?  Will those same filters work at home?  Security gets very fuzzy whenever devices leave the building.
  • Think about your highly tech savvy students.  How does security change if they have a hot spot in their pocket and can switch wifi servers?  Things like that....
  • Have new discipline policies written up for student infractions of device usage.
  • Interview your teachers like crazy to find out every single little website and software they use in their classes.  Getting a device that can't access certain resources is 1:1 suicide.  For example, ipads can't access flash sites and chromebooks have trouble with shockwave.  For the average student google docs is fine for word processing, but it's not adequate for serious design.  What would your video production classes be using?  Architecture?  Advanced science and math? 
  • Have a plan on how to distribute the devices.  It can be an organizational nightmare.
  • You might want a "permission slip" that parents must sign before a student picks up a device. That puts the onus on the guardian.
  • Get a sturdy device, even if it's heavier.  Students like sleek, light, and high-tech, but they're also very good at breaking them.
  • Did I mention students break them a lot lol?
  • Have an excellent tracking system.  When you're dealing with hundreds of devices, it's so very easy for one or twelve to just vanish.  Theft is easy and often accidental.  Seniors graduate....
  • When figuring out your strategic funding plan, roll in the fact that you will be getting a new device in 3-5 years.  Gotta keep up with technology or what's the point of 1:1. 
  • Interview the students too.  If they hate the device, they won't use it.
  • Include lots and lots and lots of professional development for your teachers on how to use this device.  Even if they're just going from windows to windows, classroom management when every student has a device is a completely different world.  Teachers need to know that they don't HAVE to use the technology every single day.  And they need control over their own classroom policies.  For example, if your district is ok with cell phones, it needs to be ok for teachers to change that rule in their particular classrooms.  You don't want teacher panic.
  • Also consider having group instruction for your students.  A few PD sessions for your teachers probably won't make them feel comfortable enough to convey those lessons to their students.  I've found that teachers need to teach in a 1:1 model for a few years before they feel like they've got it, and in the interim, their students are left kind of floating.  A few assemblies with some basic suggestions can go a long way. 
  • Make a committee complete with representation from IT, administration, teachers, media specialist(s), and any other major pertinent groups, at all grade levels.  Lack of communication can cripple your 1:1.  The teachers will find something that doesn't work, but won't necessarily feel comfortable telling the administrators.  They'll just complain amongst themselves and then not use the tech.  So you want someone they trust on your committee. 
  • Figure out what you're going to do about dead devices.  Despite telling the kids that they must charge their devices overnight, they won't.  And bringing chargers to school is a huge fire code violation.  What our district does is have lots of batteries charged and ready to go.  If a student comes in with a dead device, they go to tech and swap out the battery.  If your 1:1 is an ipad, or other device without a removable battery, that is an obstacle to think about.
  • And make sure students know that if they do take the risk of bringing their device chargers in to school, they are responsible, and the school does not have to replace said charger if they lose it.  Chargers are expensive!!!  Consider picking a device that has a universal (and cheaper) charger.
  • If it's possible, also consider putting charging stations, either in classrooms, or in the library.  We chose the latter and have a custom designed charging station for student use.  They can plug in with no trailing wires that violate fire code. 
  • And finally, consider delaying this decision entirely.  Teachers right now are overwhelmed with everything coming down on them.  They are tired of "the latest idea" being pushed upon them and then finding out that it wasn't completely thought through.  It's all new and exciting, but you want to make sure it is done right.  You could potentially be dumping hundreds of thousands down the drain and instead of improving student learning outcomes you just drain your budget, and upset everybody.

Best of luck!  If you're still considering 1:1, please let me know how it turns out.  And I'm here if you have questions.

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