Reflecting on two years of 1:1 [guest post]


Beginning in the 2010-2011 school year, our school went through a number of transformations and changes, all aimed at enhancing the quality of the learning and teaching within our building. We adapted a 5 x 3 trimester schedule providing longer class periods and a lower student-to-teacher ratio. We added a house system separating the student body into six different houses mixed by age. Through a partnership with Apple, we implemented a 1:1 laptop program with our students receiving MacBooks. Below are five lessons we learned and the two biggest struggles we continue to face.

Lessons learned

  1. It’s the pedagogy not the technology. Technology should always be at the service of pedagogy. If you’ve heard Gary Stager speak or read his posts, I’m sure you’ve heard this theme before. When technology integration moves from what Alan November calls automative to informative, the real fun begins. Technology integration in schools should not be about tacking technology onto poor pedagogy. Rather, the real joy and power of integrating technology into the classroom is the power it has to redefine the relationships in the classroom and reorient them toward a more student-centered approach to learning. In our efforts, pushing for a longer class period also allowed our staff to move away from lecture-driven instructional models and to start implementing strategies that are more constructivist in their nature. Project-based learning, challenge problems, and creative and collaborative work are all enhanced and enabled by high quality technology integration. Using a Google Doc and the Web to do a 20-minute kick-start with teams of students finding, validating, and creating information on a topic within the curriculum is a very engaging way to begin a new unit. Using various tech tools to easily integrate peer instruction strategies based on the work of Dr. Eric Mazur is a great way to leverage the technology. But in all of these examples, it is really the orientation to and relationship with the learning that has changed.
  2. Support the pedagogy at all costs. Teachers will and can change their methods when they are comfortable with their knowledge and inspired by what they see from those around them. Any new teacher quickly begins to teach like her peer group. To support this shift in pedagogy, we spent the entire year before the 1:1 program began creating a full period a day for staff to attend PD sessions throughout the year. We created a new position, Director of Instructional Technology, to lead a good number of these sessions with the goal of staff literacy in a number of pedagogical tools before the 1:1 initiative started. As the work is ongoing, we now offer PD sessions after school on Tuesdays and Saturday mornings, giving our staff an array of choices, with a certain minimum number that need to be attended. We compensate them at $27 an hour through our Title II funds. A list of this year’s sessions is here. This model has created small groups of teachers who attend sessions that they are personally interested in and who want to integrate these strategies into their classrooms.
  3. The plumbing and the plumbers. For staff to choose these strategies, they have to be guaranteed the network and bandwidth will be supportive. To that end, we added to our technology staff, doubling its size from one to two. Additionally we upgraded in a significant way the technology infrastructure by adding numerous access points and made sure our bandwidth pipe could handle 800 students pulling on it at once. I believe these changes are essential and that without them our program would be in peril. Access to the Web has to work and work quickly if these strategies will be relied upon. Additionally, every student and staff member was given a gmail account hosted through the school. In a year and half of running, our network has been down for approximately one hour. It just so happened that one hour coincided perfectly with the superintendent’s annual visit and the need to log mid-term grades. Funny how those things work out.
  4. Student ownership. We had the choice early on to either externalize ownership to the students or keep the ownership of the machines on the books of the school. In our case – and after much study – we decided to externalize the cost and have families purchase their laptops through the school. We provide financing options to our families. As a private school we have this opportunity. I realize that in many public schools the machines must be school-owned. In visiting with other schools who have school-owned 1:1 programs, the breakage rates seem to be higher. In general our breakage rates have come in below expected numbers for the students. Yet, interestingly, the staff break their machines at a rate four times that of students. If our students want to put stickers and other stuff all over the machine, they can have at it.
  5. Principal leadership. If it isn’t important to the leadership, it won’t get done. I’m not the world’s greatest principal by any means – and I make a whole host of mistakes every single day – but if I do anything well it might be modeling technology use. I teach a class every year in the high school and lead a good number of the professional development sessions related to technology-rich teaching strategies. I believe that by spending my time modeling what I believe is important, it allows the staff to get on board. I won’t ask you to do something I won’t do or won’t be willing to learn to do. Of course I pay for the time spent teaching by having to log more early mornings or late nights in the office, but I think the relationships built with students and staff more than make up for it.

Biggest Struggles

  1. Classroom management. Our staff has learned rather quickly that if they want to continue to use lecturing as their dominant instructional strategy, equipping the audience with a laptop is not conducive to that end. The computer should be more than a $1,000 pencil for note-taking. Direct instruction in its proper place and within limited time frames can be an effective strategy. When everyone has a machine, how do you guarantee that they are all on task? To this end, our staff has learned about where to be physically while they lecture and how to set up the classroom. Some staff use the LAN monitoring program. In some sense, though, student engagement in a lecture-driven classroom has always been an issue. Note passing and eye rolling have always been there. Switching from passing a note to chatting on Skype is the same problem in different clothes. Good teachers have engaged students.
  2. Assisting parents. Our students take their laptops home at the end of the school day and for holidays and the summer. At school we use the Barracuda system to filter the Web and their access and to block the traditional things that a school would block. When our students take the machines home, we presume competence on the part of our parents that they already are dealing with their own rules and Web access issues. For the most part this proves to be true, but I do think we need to do a better job of supporting some of our families that struggle in this area. One fear that some of our staff and families had is that our students would spend all of their time staring at the screen in front of them. This may be true the first week they pick up their machine over the summer, but over the last two years a few interesting things have happened. Discipline referrals have fallen by 50%, absenteeism is down by 30%, participation in school events like Homecoming and the canned food drive has more than doubled, and the number of student-initiated clubs and activities has grown by around 30%. And enrollment looks to be growing for the third year in a row. We interpret these changes to mean that technology is helping our school to form an environment that is truly conducive to student learning in a number of areas.   From what we see school is becoming more relevant and a place where our students want to be.

In conclusion, our journey is an ongoing one. Simply buying the machines and upgrading the network is not enough to be a 1:1 laptop school. The true work is in shifting the pedagogy to be more student-centered. As Gary Stager says, less “us” and more “them.” The rewards to this point have been worth the risks.

Charlie Roy is the principal of Peoria Notre Dame High School, an 800-student coeducational Diocesian Catholic school in Peoria, Illinois. He also is an adjunct instructor for Aurora University, teaching courses in school leadership and instructional technology. In his former career, Charlie was an options trader on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade. Follow Charlie on Twitter at @caroy.

13 Responses to “Reflecting on two years of 1:1 [guest post]”

  1. I honestly do not think I believe or have ever said that which is attributed to me about serving pedagogy. I have advocated 1:1 computing because it favors learning over pedagogy.

  2. @ Gary
    My apologies. In looking through the notes the phrase came from students in one of my classes summarizing your TED NY discussion on constructivism and your work with technology. Mea Culpa for the confusion and for thanks for clarifying.

  3. I appreciate your honesty and reading your article confirms much of what I have read about 1:1 programs — don’t expect the technology to transform anything….the pedagogy has to support this change. What an amazing experience for teachers to have a PD period every day that first year. I would love to be able to access the list of PD sessions for this year, but could not get to the Google Doc.

    Enjoyable post.

    • @ Judith
      I’ve changed the link so you can see it above. If you send our Director of Instructional Technology Jenn Perion a message @ she’ll be happy to share all the links to our staff development pages and resources.

      The trade off on the period a day the year before the implementation meant class sizes were larger for a year and the practical reality was it was hard to group teachers by department but that may have been a blessing.

  4. something amiss about ‘student-centered pedagogy’ … wouldn’t heutagogy be more appropriate for some of what you describe as your program goals?

  5. I too would love to see the list of PD sessions that you’ve offered but I’m unable to access it. Would you be able to send the document to my e-mail?

  6. @ Becca
    I think I’ve finally got the permissions set correctly on the document above. But in case it isn’t working the sessions below are the ones currently being offered. In the build up year most of the training was around web 2.0 tools and how to integrate them into the lesson.

    Wikis at Work by Charlie Roy
    WikisThis presentation focuses on the use of Wikispaces as a classroom tool. Beyond using wikis as a class website, they also offer a number of collaborative tools that are applicable in a 1:1 laptop setting. This session will provide an overview of wiki basics, while at the same time, provide some concrete examples of ways to use wikis to enhance and deepen student learning.
    Sat. Sept. 10
    Tues. Sept. 20

    Self-Grading Quizzes by Charlie Roy
    A self-grading quiz? Could this be better than scantron? YES! A self-grading quiz provides instant feedback on student progress and a visual way to see learning trends. This session will take participants through the benefits, creation, and data sorting of a self-grading quiz using GoogleForms. It is helpful for attendees to bring sample quiz materials.
    Tues. Oct. 25
    Sat. Dec. 3

    Connect, Collaborate, Contribute – Creating a PLN by Charlie Roy
    Need some new project ideas for your curriculum? How are other educators in your subject teaching a topic? I am the only person who has students that ______________. How can I creatively deal with ___________? Professional Learning Networks connect teachers beyond the 4 walls of the school building. This session will discuss the benefits, creation of, and use of an online PLN.
    Tues. Oct. 4
    Tues. Dec. 20

    Getting “Social” in the Classroom by Jenn Perino
    The word “social,” when it comes to the Internet, is often misunderstood. This session will cover what and how the following can be leveraged for learning: social networking, social bookmarking, SKYPE, and other collaborative tools that can keep the discussion going after class is over.
    Tues. Nov. 8
    Tues. Jan. 17

    Managing Student Work Digitally by Jenn Perino
    On the spectrum of moving from an analog world to a digital one, managing student work digitally begins to bridge the gap. This session will cover how to collect and manage student work using a variety of methods: GoogleApps, blogs, wikis, and more.
    Tues. Sept. 20
    Tues. Sept. 27

    Grading Student Work Digitally by Jenn Perino
    On the spectrum of automation to innovation, grading student work digitally puts you one step closer to innovating. Having the tools available in a 1:1 learning environment offers educators an opportunity to provide meaningful, specific, personal feedback quickly and efficiently. This session will cover different methods of grading student work digitally, providing and adding to digital notes, scanning documents, creative uses for collaborative documents and presentations, and alternative methods of assessment.
    Sat. Oct. 1
    Tues. Nov. 1
    Sat. Jan. 21

    LAN School and Classroom Management in a 1:1 by Jenn Perino
    LANSchool is more than Big Brother. It can teach you about when and how your students learn. This session will demonstrate how to use Remote Control, Web & Application Limiting, and Test-builder. Attendees will also learn how to create a Class List from a file retrieved from BlackBaud.
    Tues. Sept. 6
    Sat. Dec. 3

    Teaching and Learning with Digital Images by Jenn Perino
    In our increasingly digital world, the way things look and sound make a difference. This session includes searching for, finding, using, and creating high-quality images in the classroom. Attendees will also learn PhotoShop Basics.
    Sat. Oct. 8
    Tues. Dec. 13

    Information Literacy and RSS Feeds by Jenn Perino
    On average, students waste two days of research time when a teacher does not help them by providing a list of approved websites from which to start. “Don’t use Wikipedia – It’s a waste of time, and it’s not reliable.” Not only is this statement incorrect, it is irresponsible. As teachers, where should we go to find reliable information? Should we rely on Wikipedia? What is an RSS feed, and how can it help me? This session will cover “smart research methods,” RSS feeds, getting the most out of your browser, and resources for reliable primary sources across the curriculum.
    Sat. March 17

    Copyright or Wrong? by Jenn Perino
    Can I borrow images from websites? Is it legal to show YouTube videos in my class? Can my students use copyrighted music in their projects? Can I copy resources from books and post them on my website? This session will take you through scenarios to familiarize you with what Copyright Law, TEACH, and Fair Use allow in the classroom.
    Sat. Oct. 22
    Tues. Oct. 25
    Tues. Feb. 7
    Sat. April 21

    Video Killed the Radio Star by Jenn Perino
    Gone are the days of messing with the reel-to-reel movie projector, the overhead projector, and the film strip machine…beep. Finding video resources relevant to what you are teaching is the first step to enhancing your curriculum. Creating your own teaching videos is another step toward innovating and streamlining your teaching methods, saving time and adding focus.
    Sat. Sept. 24
    Tues. Dec. 6
    Tues. March 20

    GoogleDocs and GoogleSites – Basics by Jenn Perino
    This session will cover uploading, collections, sharing, publishing, and embedding.
    Tues. Sept. 13
    Sat. Jan. 7

    GoogleDocs – Virtual Inbox by Jenn Perino
    This session will cover advanced uses of GoogleForms. This session will take participants through the benefits, creation, and data sorting of a filtered form for collecting homework.
    Sat. Sept. 17
    Sat. Nov. 12
    Tues. Jan. 10
    Sat. Feb. 11

    Show What You Know – Student Video Project Planning by Jenn Perino
    Why should I assign a project instead of giving a test? This session will cover how to assign videos as a student project from beginning to end: Creating the idea, writing the directions, building a list of resources to research, forming the rubric, creating a sample, and evaluating the work.
    Tues. Oct. 18
    Tues. Nov. 15
    Sat. May 12

    Active Learning and Peer Instruction by Charlie Roy
    Education is not the transfer of information, but the assimilation of it. This session will cover several techniques to help add active components to the traditional classroom lecture. The session is based on the work of Dr. Eric Mazur of Harvard and his use of active lecture with peer instruction.
    Sat. Jan. 14
    Tues. Jan. 24

    Flipped Classrooms by Marty Stenoish
    Make the most of class time by flipping the concept of the classroom. This session will cover the Colorado Flipped Classroom model of instruction, putting more responsibility on students and maximizing your contact time.
    Tues. Oct. 11
    Sat. March 24
    Tues. April 17

    Search / Web Literacy for Educators by Charlie Roy
    This session will cover strategies and techniques used for advanced web searches. Learn how to move beyond a basic Google search to quickly access more pertinent and valuable online information using Google’s Advanced Web Search tools.
    Tues. Nov. 1
    Tues. Feb. 14
    Sat. May 19

    Inquiry Learning and Primary Sources Across the Curriculum by Katie Madison
    This session will review top websites and techniques for primary sources that can be used across the curriculum.
    Tues. Nov. 29
    Sat. Dec. 17
    Tues. March 27

    Augmented Reality (AR) by Aaron Cunningham
    You won’t believe your eyes! Consider a real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics, or GPS data. As a result, the technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality. This session will cover the basic elements of creating AR content for various subject areas.
    Tues. March 13
    Sat. April 14
    Tues. May 15

    Getting to Know iTunesU by Jenn Perino
    iTunes is not just for music any more. Using iTunesU can enhance your knowledge as a professional and add to your course materials. This session will explore how to find valuable resources to support the curriculum.
    Sat. Oct. 29
    Sat. Dec. 10
    Tues. Feb. 21

    From Consumer to Producer by Jenn Perino
    What is the perfect textbook for the way you teach? The one you and your students create together. This session will cover how to create an enhanced, digital textbook from the websites, resources, images, video and lectures you use on a daily basis.
    Tues. Jan. 3
    Sat. April 28
    Tues. May 22

  7. Wow! Our catholic school has been 1:1 in some form since 2000. We have educated our teachers, but I am totally amazed at the breadth and depth of your teacher training. To give them instruction every day for a year is phenomenal. Well done.

    Regarding your current courses, my questions concern attendance and engagement. Do the teachers just hit the minimum requirement? Are the teachers totally engaged or going through the motions to fulfill the requirement? What is the minimum required? Did you consider making the sessions totally optional? If you did that, would the teachers attend? What do you think would happen if you didn’t pay them? I would imagine that getting a stipend probably helps the situation.

    What was the teacher’s reaction when you announced your 1:1 initiative and when you introduced the extensive training?


  8. @ Jim
    I’d say around half go well beyond the minimum requirement. The general understanding is the technology won’t be going away so the sooner we learn to use it and use it well to enhance student learning the better.

    I would hope that our teachers would report that they are supported very well to this regard. The administration understands all staff learn at a different rate but there isn’t one who is worse off as a teacher because of their new knowledge.

    I would say their reaction initially was mixed by the rule of 1/3s. One third pretty excited, one third in the middle, and one third scared of what it meant.

    I don’t think I would make them optional. I believe making it mandatory reinforces that it is an expectation of employment. When teachers use these strategies well there is a certain amount of peer pressure it places on their colleagues to step up their efforts. In many ways I think we learn to teach more from our initial set of colleagues than the idea that we teach the way we were taught. If we can keep that cycle going I think it only gets better. It starts to make a difference in who we attract as staff as well. Of course adding new staff is its own issue in terms of catching them up to speed. This is where having a full time position of Director of Instructional Technology has come to be very valuable. She has the freedom to meet with these new hires constantly throughout the year.

  9. @Charlie
    Your comments about building a more active community made me assume that the communication tools being used were particularly effective; thus leading me to ask:

    As your students use the technology, are they operating in a protected environment, one that is limited to the school’s community? Or are the students using blog, wiki, and social media tools that are more wide open to the world at large?

  10. In general most of the blogs and wikis they create and use are open and not limited to the immediate school community. Our general format has been to use the free tools available from wikispaces to google docs and goolesites for classroom links and projects.

  11. Valuable information. I appreciate the amount of time this must have taken to put together. We’re far from 1:1 in my school, but the gleam is in our eye. You’ve given me a lot to think about.

  12. We are beginning our 1:1 program this year with our Erdkinder community . It is so helpful to have the experiences from other school’s right at our fingertips. We will share as we learn.

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