I’ve been around a lot of 1:1 initiatives in schools. As a teacher, I was around when Classrooms for the Future started, and when my former district went 1:1 laptops 6-12th grade. I then moved into a K-12 Technology Staff Developer role helping to roll out the 1:1 initiative and support the teaching and learning happening in classrooms across our schools. I was also lucky enough to be a Instructional Consultant for ISTE during the Verizon Innovative Learning Schools project where I worked with 12 schools who were going BYOD or 1:1 (or who already had in the previous year).
I’ve seen technology initiatives rolled out in all different types of formats and fashions. All HS students at once with once device. One grade each year. Two grades a year. All MS and HS students BYOD at once. And the list goes on…
So when we started talking about our learning principles and the role of technology at Upper Perkiomen School District a year and half ago, I knew that technology initiatives had succeeded and failed regardless of device and type of roll-out plan.
We started talking about OUR LEARNING BELIEFS and not what type of technology we wanted to bring in. We discussed our LEARNING PRINCIPLES and developed consensus around these beliefs before even mentioning 1:1 or BYOD or anything else related to an initiative.
Last year our Leadership Council – comprised of teachers and administrators from every level – developed our UPSD Learning Principles to guide the rest of our work centered around instruction, curriculum, professional learning, and innovative practices.
Upper Perkiomen School District LEARNING PRINCIPLES
- Curricula will reflect opportunities for authentic learning. Learners will be given opportunities to use their existing skills and understandings to make connections to new learning. Learners will apply critical and creative thinking to collaboratively and individually solve authentic problems
- Successful learning requires individuals who know how to reflect, self-assess, and use feedback to establish personal goals for learning. The teaching and modeling of the reflective practice will be incorporated in all aspects of the learning process.
- All curriculum, planning, design and content delivery will address the intentional development of competencies, skills, and understandings relevant to both the subject area and the broader set of authentic ‘life skills’ such as creative expression, skillful communication, self-direction, resilience, and persistence through common language and assessment practices.
- The school district is a community of learners where ability is seen as dynamic and the environment in all classrooms allows each student to grow, develop, and engage in meaningful learning.
- Learners will engage in work in supportive environments and receive regular and specific feedback related to their progress in order to maximize learning and develop individual persistence, The students will be given opportunities to use that feedback to remain accountable while improving their own learning.
- All learners are capable of their highest potential when interests and strengths are recognized and accommodated in inclusive learning environments when there is an appropriate blend of challenge, comfort, and support in those environments, and when success is seen as attainable through persistent effort.
Out of this work came a smaller committee focused on Innovative Learning Practices. As chair of this committee, we worked to define a vision for innovative learning at UPSD K-12. We knew that our current state of technology was limiting, and collaborated as a group to come up with goals for how technology could (and should) be used with purpose. Here are our goals (before we ever started talking about an initiative):
Upper Perk Learns: Goals for Technology
- Impact student engagement in and out of the classroom.
- Shift curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices towards meaningful and relevant learning experiences.
- Increase student achievement through a variety of authentic measures.
- Increase communication between students, teachers, parents, and the community.
- Foster specific skills to prepare our students for their future:
- Critical Thinking
- Increase opportunities for individualized and personalized learning for every student
- Digital equity in access, device, and platform across the district.
Our Learning Principles and Innovative Learning Goals gave us a foundation from which to build and grow. Now, when we began talks about bringing in more technology, or shifting curriculum, or using open educational resources (we are one of six US DoE #GoOpen Ambassador Districts) the conversation would center around the following:
Does this idea match our learning principles?
Does this innovative practice align to our goals?
Does this technology help students achieve in ways that further our goals and learning principles?
Our conversations began to shift throughout the year. We were realizing as a group that there was a wide gap in digital equity across our district. For years technology had been “handed down” from the HS, to the MS, to the ELEM schools. This led to our ELEM students working on Windows XP machines that were older than they were! It also was not sustainable, and there was not a plan in place to meet the needs of our students in 2015.
We began looking at solutions to this problem. The easy answer was BYOD, and then to provide devices to those students who did not have a device to bring in. This would (in theory) cost us less money, and get us to a place of equity sooner than most other options.
Our group of educators had major concerns about BYOD. Specifically ones centered on equity in the type of device, equity in a shared platform, and equity in support levels at home and at school.
Our BrightBytes questionnaire provided valuable insight into the access and types of devices students had at home. 94% of our students had access to a device, but 75% of those students shared one device for the entire household. We dug deeper around what type of solution would work to make our innovative learning goals a reality and drive home the learning principles at all levels.
Here is the meeting that changed everything (I’ve shared the agenda below). Out of this meeting came a vision that I did not quite expect, but really believed in after hearing our teachers and leaders share their ideas and input:
ILP Committee Agenda
- Intro Video: This Will Revolutionize Education
- Overview of Updated Technology Needs Assessment and Plan
- Devices are just the beginning: SAMR Model for Tech Integration
- Break Into Building Level Groups
- Notecard Activity: What types of innovative learning can/should happen at your level?
- Rate it on the SAMR Scale
- What device best supports the transformative learning experiences students can/should be having at your level?
- What does our K-12 scope look like? What do we want it to look like?
- Device Discussion: What are our goals for devices?
- Next Steps
- Smaller group to help write initiative proposal
- Department and Grade Level meetings with staff
- Parent nights at the MS and HS
- Professional Development needs and expectations
- Project RED Roll-out Team
We met with every teacher in the entire district. We held conversations with our MS Student Technology Committee and our HS Student Technology Committee, as well as our HS Student Council. We held parent nights at all three levels. We discussed innovative learning practices in PLCs and in services across all of our schools.
What came out of these conversations, debates, and sometimes arguments was that each level had different needs.
We had piloted iPads at the HS (as well as Windows laptop carts) and our teachers and students shared that they wanted the following out of a device:
- A laptop with full keyboard (not a tablet)
- Able to use Microsoft Suite (along with GAFE)
We had piloted Chromebooks at the MS and our teachers and students shared that they wanted the following out of a device:
- GAFE supported apps
- Quick start up time
- Good battery life
We had piloted iPads and Chromebooks (as well as PCs) at the Elem level and our teachers and students shared they wanted the following out of a device:
- Age/level appropriate apps
- That it works!
- More devices!
After bringing all of this information back to our ILP committee we had to create a plan that met our learning principles, helped us reach our goals, and reflected the needs of our students and teachers across every level.
- Going 1:1 iPad was not going to work. Our students at the HS wanted keyboards.
- Going 1:1 Chromebooks 6-12 was not going to work. Our students/teachers at the HS wanted the Microsoft Suite tools.
- Going BYOD was not going to work, as equity was one of our main goals, and both students and teachers shared that a 1:1 approach was more likely to make that happen.
- Going all 1:1 Windows laptops was not going to work based on the needs of ELEM and MS teachers/students.
We knew from our research that most schools going 1:1 chose one device and one platform for all of their students and teachers.
We knew from our conversations and research in our district that we needed a different approach. One that was sustainable (in terms of financial resources, support, and PD) but also met our different needs.
Then came a comment from one of our HS teachers, “When they leave Upper Perk most of these students won’t have a choice of what device or platform they use if they are hired by a company. And if they do have the choice of what device or platform to use, shouldn’t we give them the experience of all of them so they can decide wisely?”
Boom. Nailed it.
We were going with a multi-device (iPad, Chromebook, Windows Laptop), multi-platform (iOS, Chrome OS, Windows OS) initiative where 6-12 students would be 1:1 and K-5 students would be 1 device for every three students. We developed a 1.5 year roll-out plan that encompassed three separate schools years. As we presented the plan to the staff, school board, and community we always began with our learning goals for Upper Perk Learns:
We shared the plan for roll-out over the next few years. In January of 2016 9th and 10th grade students would receive a Windows touchscreen laptop and 7th grade students would receive a Chromebook. At the Elem level 4th and 5th grade students would have a 1:3 environment. In August/September of 2016 we would have 9, 10, 11 with laptops, and 7, 8 with Chromebooks–while Grade 2-5 would be a 1:3 environment. Then the following year we would hit 6-12 1:1 and K-5 1:3.
Here is the plan for K-5.
Here is the 6-8 plan:
Here is the 9-12 plan:
The multi-device, multi-platform initiative is also supported with different types of devices at each level. For example, although the MS is 1:1 Chromebook, our MS Computer Labs transformed to now have the exact same HS Windows Laptops for students to use in class so they are familiar with Windows and the Microsoft Suite before receiving their device in 9th grade.
At the HS we have plans for a Mac desktop lab and also have a floating cart of iPads to work alongside the Windows laptop 1:1 environment.
We are excited about this initiative, but even more pumped about the process, thought, and insight all members of our learning community had while planning and preparing.
Would love to hear your thoughts, and I’ll continue to share as Upper Perk Learns!