Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Leadership and Vision in a 1:1 Reality by Ron Canuel #ok1to1

These are my notes from Ron Canuel’s presentation, “Leadership and Vision in a 1:1 Reality” at the AALF / Oklahoma SDE 1:1 Learning Conference, November 30, 2009. This event is organized by the Anytime Anywhere Learning Foundation, and sponsored by the Oklahoma State Department of Education. MY THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS ARE IN ALL CAPS.

I’m doing a 30 minute overview of our 8 year experience with 1:1 learning

I am the “director general” of our school district
– that is a Napoleonic term for “superintendent” in Quebec

Our experiences have been very humbling
– the soft underbelly of education is often revealed

impact on teachers and educators? simple
– it took our very good teachers and made them excellent
– it took our poorer teachers and made them weaker
– so this is very polarizing
– this is all about learning
– the challenges come forth

We’re in a society where technology is so prevalent, but as some have observed

Me: 34 years as an educator
– Reader’s Digest Canada 2008, “Hero” in Education

In our providence, our government to date won’t acknowledge us and our work with 1:1 learning, not-with-standing our partnerships with Uruguay and South Korea
– we teach kids in Circ-de-Solet online

Video: people take so much for granted today which SHOULD impress them! (Conan show clip)

If we are going to prepare students for THEIR future, we really need to be attuned to issues of relevancy and engagement

I have 28 schools across a territory the size of Maryland
– almost 7000 students in our district
– we planned for 18 months, met 1 day per week
– came up with 209 items to work on

how did we generate that list? I asked me people: come up with every question you think will come up
– that led to a “blueprint” that we developed to answer each of those

That indicated to all our constituents that we did our homework and knew what we were talking about
– 1 question I was not prepared for: mom who asked about her daughter being kidnapped because she had a laptop

Provincial curriculum ins inquiry-based learning
– constructivist in basis
– this has been a very difficult transition in our schools
– in terms of standardized testing: our providence has led the way
– kids have to pass tests their last 2 years to get their certificate

Our achievement results
– in 2003 when we started, 66 or 69
– in 2008: we are 23 of 69

Dropout rates: down 41% – 26%
– we are about to have a press conference and announce now we are below 20%

Our 3 goals:
– enhancing teaching
– engaging students in learning
– creating a culture of excellence

Research on dropouts is unequivocal: kids are leaving school because they don’t see the relevance, don’t “get it” from a connection standpoint

1- improved literacy / numeracy
2- reduced dropout rate
3- equalized learning “Field”

When we encounter people who say, “I don’t believe a laptop has any place in the classroom” respond by focusing just on pedagogy alone: “Why would you say the most powerful learning tool ever created in the history of the world doesn’t have a place in the 21st century classroom?”

This has equalized the playing field tremendously
– we have students with autism who communicate via email with their teachers and parents
– students with serious handwriting problems now typing proficiently

consistent complaints from teachers:
– the kids are writing too much (there is too much to grade / review)

Phases of Integration when you bring in technology as we havej
– four distinct phases over a 3 – 4 year period

If I had my druthers, I would start in Kindergarten, because that is where literacy and numeracy starts

If you ask math teachers why some of their kids are not doing well, the answer is the same: they can’t read the questions

Start at the elementary level and work your way up

4 phases
1- The “Euphoria” phase
2- The “Dip” phase
3- The “Re-focus” phase
4- The “Building capacity” phase

all our kids take the laptops home all the time, 95% of our kids are bussed

make sure the laptop is PERSONALIZED: kids will take much better care of it than they would a textbook
– we thought our laptops would last 3-4 years, they are still in operation 6 years later
– we re-image laptops each summer
– we just take 3 days to re-image teacher laptops

this must be driven by pedagogy not by technology
– your directors of curriculum must be in charge of this initiative

When we announced to our IT director and his team that we were going from a PC platform to an Apple platform, for 3 months they were on suicide watch
– now, our team members are experts on both platforms

Some of our teachers in 2002, going to the ATM machine was a big event
– handing teachers a laptop and saying you’ll teach with this was HUGE

When I visited Maine classrooms in 2002, I asked kids about the interactions between their Apple laptop and their PC computers at home
– kids gave blank stares
– kids go from one platform to another without a problem

that was a poke in the eye for me: kids want to be able to use the technology in a way to express themselves, to collaborate, to be collegial with each other

Leadership components of change
– beware of the philosophical vs pragmatic
– we were first district in Canada to go 1:1, admins were very enthusiastic
– after 6 months, there was a lot of philosophic buy-in but not practical buy-in
– loaded plates for administrators

We realized PD must include management

Michael Fullan from Canada says it best: pressure and support are two key elements for any educational reform effort

managing change is about managing people

We’ve developed integration of technology and education rubrics that are now on the US DOE website

April 2008 survey of parents:
– conducted in spring of 2008 involving all students, teachers, administrators and large representation of parents
– responses were all confidential and anonymous, most submitted online

We did this project with no additional money
– I have 21 elected trustees who voted anonymously for this
– we got bank loans, and we have a foundation
– with the promise of not 1 cut into a school program
– I can assure you I’ve heard the issue of money nonstop, I can help show you where you have some money you can redirect

In any change situation, you will always have 10-15% of people who are against change no matter what you present
– those are the types of people who get up in the morning and say, “Oh no, not another day…” (I was just getting used to yesterday)

Bruce’s answer to what you do with reluctant teachers: “Mate, you work with the living”

Harvard Business Review says: most successful organizations invest in those people who make it work
– those other teachers “are coming around”
– we have less and less of those against it, because there is an inevitability to this

Key finding #2: students most often use their laptops to look up information and write both at school and at home

finding 3: language arts, French, science ,social studies and math were subjects where laptops were most useful
– student research, making schoolwork more interesting and general improvement in school work are the most useful applications for the laptop


Fun uses are less common than we thought

can be used for all subjects

this is about philosophy

for teachers we find: the more they use the laptop for their personal lives, the more likely they’ll use it professionally to integrate technology

We know you have to have Internet filters, we have none
– have met with lots of experts who say: they don’t work
– kids figure out how to get around them

I was in Washington DC now, and some teachers are telling kids to get

There is only 1 filter that really works: monitoring
– we expect our teachers to monitor kids, and parents to monitor as well

I have parents come say, “My child just spent 3 hours on that laptop YOU gave him! What are you going to do about that?”
– my response: Why don’t you tell them to turn it off! (that isn’t a problem with the technology)

Some basic “lessons about a successful 1:1 laptop deployment
1: education really doesn’t like change, whether it is top down or by local consensus. 10-15% of individuals won’t like anything to do with change, plain and simple
– focus on mid-adapters: your early adapters will NOT carry this initiative forward
– have to really support them and your late adapters

Lesson 2: If the technology (laptops, infrastructure) is not reliable (95%) regular, sustainable, and supported then teachers will simply put the machines to the side
– create a SENSE of openness to the Internet – too many filters also serve as a major deterrent
– we have to work around this

Lesson 3: curriculum must support integration of technology and be based on becoming transformational, in both learning and teaching contexts
– teacher PD must focus on the integration of new pedagogy, as well as in integrating technology into the classroom
– be careful of younger vs seasoned teachers
– teachers with strongest pedagogy will be your strongest leaders with 1:1

Lesson 4: departmental and school leadershipL pragmatic buy-in and not philosophical buy in
– don’t want people to just see this as “more work”

Lesson 5: evaluation drives instruction
– in establishing any new context for learning and expecting teachers to move to a transformational situation, the entire evaluative rubric for each subject must be completed, prior to the deployment
– otherwise the technology usage will simply mirror traditional, Socratic teaching methods

2003 response from many when we started: laughter
– now showing video of kids on laptops, set to Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” song (NICE CHOICE FOR A SONG, BTW)

Still more derivatives
– increased teachers / administrators involvement in the learning cycle
– we have an expectation of change and self-improvement
– being more evidence based, not just based on gut-feel
– improved student attitude / motivation / behavior
– created a permanent culture of ongoing professional development
– more..

2008 response by educators, ministry of education, politicians, and media: deafening silence

canuelr [at]

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4 responses to “Leadership and Vision in a 1:1 Reality by Ron Canuel #ok1to1”

  1. Mark Spahr Avatar

    Thanks for sharing your notes as always Wes. The video makes a great point. I also especially liked the line on how to deal with reluctant teachers.

    I believe the Technology/Pedagogy Integration Rubrics could be very useful in any school. I hope to convince my Principal to use it as a self-evaluation for teachers. After compiling the answers, this might give us some real insight into where we stand.