Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Advice for schools embarking on the 1:1 journey?

Elizabeth Helfant is one of the teacher-leaders in St Louis embarking on a 1:1 laptop learning journey with many others at her school, and has posted a request for guidance and advice for this endeavor.

I could (and at some point will) share more extensive ideas and links on this topic, but for now I want to share Elizabeth’s request for assistance so that others (with more experience and wisdom in this area than I) can weigh in, and also share a few links.

Dr. Mike Muir is certainly one of the experts who is very knowledgeable about 1:1 laptop projects in Maine and elsewhere, and continues to share a great deal about his experiences, learning and research related to 1:1 projects. His workshop “Doing 1-to-1 Right! The 6 Components of Success” is worth checking out, along with his blog “Every One Learns – Pedagogy, Technology, Motivation.” He hasn’t posted there since October but there are LOTS of great ideas and resources on his blog, and I’m sure we’ll see posts from Mike again at some point there!

The Anywhere, Anytime Learning Foundation is a fantastic organization committed to helping educators worldwide embarking on and continuing on a 1:1 laptop learning journey. I met and heard a great presentation (“Planning, Funding and Sustaining Strategies for Successful 1:1 Computing”) by their director, Bruce Dixon, at EduComm last June in Anaheim. It’s available as an audio podcast and an online video. I recommend that anyone interested in 1:1 join AALF and attend one of their leadership summits held around the country throughout the year.

A key element, and perhaps THE most important element, for 1:1 project success is LEADERSHIP. If the key leaders in the school organization do not understand and embrace an appropriate vision for 1:1 computing, the project will face FAR more challenges and setbacks than it should, and stands a good chance of FAILING because of a basic lack of support. My continuing conversations with various educational leaders involved in 1:1 learning confirm this contention over and over again. If your leaders “get it,” they are much more likely to mobilize the constituent support (in various forms) which is required to successfully shepherd a 1:1 learning project. If the leaders don’t get it, like so many other educational reform initiatives, a laptop learning project runs the risk of being just another initiative from on high that comes and goes. No one wants to start a laptop initiative and several years later, tell parents and kids, “Sorry. We tried this, but we didn’t plan enough or win enough support to continue this, so we’re going back to pencils and Big Chief tablets.”

not a big chief tablet

Unfortunately, we’ve seen this happen in some cases, and likely will again. GOOD LEADERSHIP IS THE KEY. Vision. Find ways to let your school leaders and board members interface and have extended conversations with other leaders already well-down the 1:1 laptop learning journey, who embrace a vision of progressive school reform. Listen to Gary Stager’s excellent presentation from Learning 2.0 in Shanghai, “Ten Things to Do with a Laptop – Learning and Powerful Ideas,” and share it with your school leaders.

Initiate discussions about pedagogic change and authentic student engagement NOW, before the laptop initiative begins, and explore the ways laptop learning can substantively bolster a LEARNING agenda which has pedagogic roots far deeper than mere digital tool use at an “accommodation” level. Discuss the differences between a drive to ENTHRALL learners with technology and digital content, and an effort to authentically ENGAGE learners in meaningful work. Explore frameworks for analyzing and understanding instructional tasks like Dr. Chris Moersh’s Levels of Technology Implementation (LoTi,) and launch a book study series with your top educational leaders and teacher-leaders, focused on the work of Dr. Phil Schlechty including his books “Working on the Work: An Action Plan for Teachers, Principals, and Superintendents” and “Shaking Up the Schoolhouse: How to Support and Sustain Educational Innovation.”

I maintain social bookmarks related to 1:1 learning which include other resources that may be helpful for Elizabeth and others embarking on the 1:1 learning journey. Gary R. Morrison, Steven M. Ross and Deborah L. Lowther’s March 2007 publication “When Each Has One: Technology as a Change Agent in the Classroom” (PDF) is one of many articles that provide good insight into the trails blazed by others with laptop learning initiatives. The One-to-One Information Resource is another site that should not be missed, it was previously titled “The Ubiquitous Computing Evaluation Consortium” and developed by SRI International under a project funded by the National Science Foundation.

Rae Niles is another educational leader with extensive experiences implementing and supporting 1:1 initiatives in Sedgwick Public Schools, in Kansas. I heard from my uncle last weekend that Rae is changing roles, but I’m sure we’ll continue to benefit from her vision, wisdom, expertise and passion for learning in her new role with Apple Education. Reach out to Rae and others I’ve linked above, who are committed to helping educators and learners of all ages be SUCCESSFUL in their efforts to constructively transform learning cultures with a 1:1 initiative being a key catalyst for pedagogic changes.

I could go on, but I’ll stop there.

The reasons to embrace 1:1 computing are compelling, but there are MANY challenges to address and PLENTY of ways to fail miserably in this endeavor. My presentation at TCEA last year, “The Case for 1:1 Computing in Schools,” outlines some of the compelling reasons to embrace 1:1 and some of the best practices, but I will not pretend to be an expert on this subject. The real experts are the teachers, administrators, students, and community members who live and breathe 1:1 computing each day in their schools. They are the “educational Yodas” to whom we should turn for wisdom and guidance on this subject, which will be one of the most relevant and important topics for discussion AND action in our schools and communities in the years to come.

Kudos to Elizabeth and others at MICDS pursuing this vision and dream of 1:1 computing in St Louis and elsewhere. I hope we’ll see similarly motivated educational leaders here in the great state of Oklahoma step forward in the months ahead to carry and share this torch of engaged, 1:1 learning into both the rural and urban schools of our state.

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7 responses to “Advice for schools embarking on the 1:1 journey?”

  1. […] Fryer posted an amazing article over at Moving at the Speed of Creativity. The post has dozens of great resources for schools […]

  2. Julie Lindsay Avatar

    Wes, thanks for your thoughts and resources. I am embarking again on a quest for a one-to-one program here in Qatar after spending 4 years in Bangladesh setting up a handheld and laptop program. Leadership and vision are paramount as is clear communication between all stakeholders. Myself and a team of colleagues have the wonderful opportunity of attending a Laptop Institute conference at the American School of Bombay in Mumbai, India in a month at which I hope to network with schools from around the Asian and Europe. I will certainly share your ideas and encouragament.

  3. Dennis Richards Avatar

    What a great post, Wes. I need more time to savor it, but you’ve done a real service to those interested in 1:1. For some time I thought that 1:1 made sense, but in the last 6 months I have learned I look forward to following you updates.

  4. Kim Avatar

    Wes, thank you so much for the valuable post! It is so jam-packed with great resources I will need the weekend to explore them all adequately! I am trying to pilot a small 1:1 project, in the hopes that the data from my small corner of our system will spark the move toward larger implementation! Your post full of advice is perfectly timed! Thanks!

  5. Wesley Fryer Avatar

    Julie, Dennis and Kim: You are all most welcome! I’m glad these links and ideas are of interest. I wish each of you the best of luck as you pursue 1:1 initiatives in your own areas!

  6. […] Advice for schools embarking on the 1:1 journey? » Moving at the Speed of Creativity (tags: 1:1 1to1) […]

  7. Audrey Avatar

    I hope someday to see computer screens embedded in every desk always connected to the internet as the ubiquitous technological 1:1 solution for the classroom. I don’t know if you are referring to carts.. but laptops in my school are a disaster and no one uses them. Perhaps what we have available is not state of the art.. our carts have to be plugged in so that we can get wireless access, which is often a little unreliable. It takes forever to get the laptops out of the carts and into the children’s hands. If they weren’t plugged in by the previous teacher.. they don’t work at all. We don’t have ac available for emergencies. Getting them up and running takes up so much of my classtime, I’d rather pop on down to the lab. Untileach kid has their own personal laptop that they carry with them everywhere and the whole school has wireless access at all times.. it’s a logistical nightmare in our classrooms.