Mission Digital: Lessons from a 1:1 Chromebook Rollout
We are currently in our fourth year of a 1:1 digital learning initiative. Over the years we’ve learned a great deal about the rollout—how to provide teacher professional development, deal with damaged Chromebooks, and what transformation looks like in the classroom.
Yes, rolling out a few thousand Chromebooks can be exhilarating, but as time consuming as it is, getting the devices out is the easy part. The hard work—the transformative work—is defining your why, and answering this question: How does going digital bring about innovations in teaching, learning, school leadership, and community outreach?
Rolling Out Devices is Not the Same as Going Digital
Before reading more about the work we have done and the lessons we’ve learned, we have to get real about the difference between rolling out devices school-wide and going digital. Putting a device in every student’s hands is admirable. However, what schools have discovered is that just rolling out devices without understanding and planning for the fundamental shift in going digital is expensive and does little to nothing to address student outcomes. Rather than seeing transformation, teachers as well as school leaders find themselves at the crossroads of having a 500 dollar digital worksheet.
Going digital is understanding that we are teaching a mobile generation of learners who hold the world’s knowledge in the palm of their hands. This means embracing the interconnectedness of technology and pedagogy to amplify the voices and experiences for your students. When going digital, your classroom isn’t your room number or school address; your classroom is an open space without walls where your students are learning anytime, anywhere, at their own pace.
Your role isn’t to know everything and to be the master of facts and figures. Your students have Google for that. Your role is to provide context; encourage discussion; and expose your students to people, places, and ideas outside of their community.
Additionally, you must move your students beyond passive consumers of content towards becoming designers, creators, and producers of products and learning experiences that integrate critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity—while honoring the cultural identities of your students and supporting them through finding their place within the global community.
Build a Strong Digital Foundation
Similar to building a house, you need to have a strong foundation from which you build your digital transition upon. Teachers need a platform to not only facilitate online instruction; they also need a space where students can communicate, collaborate, and have access to material 24/7.
While some teachers use productivity tools, such as Google Classroom and Drive or Office 365 and OneNote, others use more comprehensive educational platforms called learning management systems, or LMSs. There are no shortage of platforms to choose from. Just be sure that whatever platform you choose assists you in achieving your why.
In our case, we opted for an LMS because we wanted teachers and students alike to have a fully realized online experience. That is to say that we needed a platform that provided teachers and students a smooth transition into the online learning space.
We also wanted a platform where teachers could easily differentiate, individualize, and personalize instruction, as well as design, develop, collaborate, and share resources across grade levels and subject-areas. And because we are teaching a mobile generation of learners, we wanted student learning to be mobile and accessible from any smartphone or tablet even if students didn’t have access to their assigned Chromebook.
After we selected Schoology, I worked with the other Instructional Technologist to plan a two-week summer technology bootcamp for teachers. We learned from doing site visits prior to our rollout that we couldn’t drop off a cart of Chromebooks to teachers classrooms without providing the proper support and guidance for what their classrooms were going to look like. Though we were learning with the teachers, we knew that teachers had to have a comfort level with the tools once school started in August.
Avoid the Kitchen Sink Approach
During that first boot camp, we threw every tool we knew at the teachers. Day after day for two weeks, we served up session after session on tools on top of tools. Two years into the 1:1 we learned that we overwhelmed teachers and we failed to have the conversations on learner centered innovation. Instead of this brave new world of learning, we saw teachers using the Chromebooks as an add on or a station to do work for remediation.
Taking that information, we went in another direction for our third and fourth year boot camps. Using our observations as well as veteran teacher feedback, the boot camps focused on going digital.
Sure, we continued to teach teachers the how-tos of G-Suite Apps, Schoology, Nearpod, and a few other tools, but those were secondary to our focus on teachers undergoing a fundamental shift in their thinking about who owns the learning.
Working with Albert Galeas, Ed.S., the Instructional Technologist who facilitates the 1:1 digital initiative at two schools within our district, we offered breakout sessions on TPACK , SAMR, and blended learning. For their part, the teachers participated in several self-reflective exercises aimed at understanding deeper learning, innovation, and the need to give up control.
Going Digital is a Mission
Going digital isn’t about putting a device into every student’s hand, buying some trendy program, or teaching teachers a bunch of buzzwords that don’t do or mean anything. It is about thinking, teaching, and connecting in a way that utilizes the power of technology to create learning experiences beyond what is possible with pencil and paper.
Public education is suffocating from centuries of tradition where the teacher owns the learning. With digital, the students should own the learning. Point of fact. We live in an era of disruption brought on by technological innovations at every sector. And the way we teach our students should be reflective of that reality.