Thursday, May 1, 2014

Questions for your 1:1 Initiative.

Although I suspect that a great deal of planning has gone into this initiative already, here are 10 important questions that parents should ask—and that school administrators should be able to answer.
  • What are the initiative's teaching and learning goals, and how will those goals be measured? Too many technology initiatives start with the technology, not the instructional goals. Clearly defined objectives should drive the choice of device being used. For example, if schools want students to read e-books, the screens and applications should support this use. In the planning stages of the project, the district should also determine how it will measure progress toward its stated goals, so that it will be able to answer the question, "What have we received for our money, time, and effort?"
 We went for the keyboard, low cost, natural integration with the Google suite ... Chromebook. After an initial bad phase of damaged hardware, it's evened out. Curriculum, teaching goals, measurement -- eh, not so much.
  • What training is in place for the teaching staff? Professional development is key to the success of any 1:1 initiative. The major shortcomings of most 1:1 professional development efforts are that they offer too little, too late—and focus too much on the device instead of on the pedagogy required for its effective use.
Damn little in our district. It's been hit or miss and mostly miss. Fortunately, there are a few people willing to train each other but that is an uneasy way to do this.
  • Is there a digital citizenship curriculum in place? Of utmost importance to many parents is their children's online safety. Schools can address this need by having a good plan in place to help students learn to use technology appropriately. Supplement the plan with a parent education program that includes guidelines—written in clear, understandable, and positive language—for when devices can be used in school, what applications and websites are appropriate, and how users must care for the equipment. (Our district's guidelines can be found on our 1:1 parent site. Like many districts, we have borrowed extensively from Common Sense Media.)
No. The AP will try to discipline students who cross an ill-defined line, but there is nothing in place that sets out any rules or guidelines to limit the students nor is there anything to guide them in using it more fully than for music videos.
  • What happens if a student breaks or loses the device? Clear procedures related to loss, damage, and theft of school-owned devices need to be in place. My own district, like many, offers parents a low-cost insurance plan that covers accidental damage. We also place mandatory, heavy-duty cases on student devices, dramatically improving their survivability.
We've got this covered. Admin tried to "go easy" at first and that was a total failure. Now that they have simplified things (replacement screen is $50; tough, you broke it, you pay) students are much more self-assured and they've come to understand what kinds of treatment will end up costing money.
  • How will these devices be managed and maintained? Unreliable technology is frustrating for both staff and students—and apt to go unused. The 1:1 plan should address the staffing and management systems necessary to troubleshoot hardware, update software, and install applications on student devices.
Yeah, covered. Important point.
  • What e-resources will accompany the hardware? Individualized instruction requires such resources as e-books and content databases, a course management system like Moodle or Blackboard, and software that enables students to access and process information. Cloud-based productivity and collaboration tools like GoogleApps or Office365 can support workflows and communication between teacher and students.
Google Applications Suite, Apps, Moodle (that I personally maintain, installed, support).  Yeah, this part is working really well for the faculty who've jumped in feet-first. For the others, it's been a struggle ... some people still want paper for everything.  The students are good for this. "Can I just share my paper?"
  • Is the network infrastructure in place to support the use of the devices, both internally and in the cloud? Although many schools have spent a good deal of time and effort in extending the reach of their wireless networks to all instructional areas of a school (coverage), they may not have the bandwidth needed to support dozens of devices trying to use the network at the same time (capacity).
Barely. Still takes time in the morning to navigate the wifi discovery, network login, etc. Once that's done, it pretty good. "Take out your Chromebooks." 30 seconds and we're using Desmos.
  • How will you ensure that all teachers use the devices to improve teaching and learning? Few of us like top-down mandates, so it's important that the teachers who are expected to implement this program have input during the planning process on goals, training, resources, and policies. Assessment of effective teaching using technology should be embedded in teacher evaluation practices.
First year ... a few teachers, most of the students. It's going pretty well and it's a definite positive slope.
  • What will happen in a few years when all these devices are obsolete? The plan should be specific about the project's long-term viability. Using one-time referendum dollars that will be repaid over 20 or 30 years to buy equipment that will need to be replaced in five years is like taking out a mortgage to purchase a car. A transparent budget for the project must clearly state both annual costs and long-term maintenance and replacement needs.
 It's handled.
  • Are other areas of the school's budget being cut to pay for this project? If the 1:1 initiative is being funded by general operating dollars, school leaders should be up-front about its potential impact on other programs. Given the zero-sum nature of most school budgets, somebody's priority program or resource may get reduced—and that somebody may not like it. If dollars are coming from places that will require less funding because of the initiative—such as textbooks, printing, or school supplies—the district needs to demonstrate these savings.
Nothing is being cut ... yet.  The textbooks are being replaced in part with FOS .... there are lots of math books out there. Some paper books that have  deteriorated over the years are being replaced - but pdf or active versions, rather than paper. We saved money by not buying the expensive version.

I think our feeling is that we'll save a little here and a little there while providing the students with tools they wouldn't otherwise have been able to get. It might not be a monetary zero-sum, but the benefits are worth the cost even though we haven't come close to fully utilizing the resource.