5 Lessons for 1-to-1 Integration

August 05, 2013
Aran Levasseur
Technology coordinator

CATEGORIES In the Classroom, Professional Development, Technology Integration

This post by Aran Levasseur is part of our Thought Leader guest blog series. We're asking educators and others working on various elements of edtech to share their perspectives. Join the conversation! 

We are in the midst of a digital revolution. Educators recognize that digital tools have the potential to augment teaching and learning and it can be fashionable to see these devices as the answer to lots of issues: student engagement, equity, assessment, and differentiating instruction, to name a few. While 1-to-1 programs dramatically increase teaching and learning possibilities, a range of challenges and surprises lurk in the shadows.

At San Francisco University High School we are entering our third year of a 1-to-1 iPad program. These are the five lessons I’ve learned from integrating iPads successfully.

1. Having a Goal Requires a Path

One of the first questions a school should ask is: what are our 1-to-1 program goals? Are you hoping to increase efficiency, productivity and communication? Perhaps you are interested in implementing a constructivist pedagogy using digital tools. Whatever the goals are, it’s important to sketch out a provisional route toward achieving them. While goals and plans will change during the process, having no route increases the likelihood of getting lost -- which in turn can amplify anxiety and frustration.

For example, you might consider adopting the cloud-based file storage and sharing site, to facilitate your new digital environment. However, there are many hidden elements to the implementation that can create friction and require planning: file conversion, work flows, recovering deleted files, and understanding the interface are among them. Training requires time, and often more time than you think it will. Having a defined path that allows for the added time increases the likelihood of success.

2. Innovation Can’t Be Installed

Innovation is a popular buzzword these days. While digital tools hold great potential, innovation can’t be installed. It must be cultivated from the edges. Innovation takes time and space, trial and error. It requires tinkering and a tolerance for uncertainty. These conditions are unusual for traditional learning environments, which is why innovation is more likely to take root on the margins.

At UHS we are in the process of creating a technology incubator to confront this challenge. The intention is to create a working group of faculty from various departments that are committed to experimenting with technology in the classroom to enhance teaching and learning.  The incubator provides a place for faculty to come together to share ideas, talk about challenges, and communicate best practices for integrating technology into their respective curriculums. Once ideas have been vetted and tested, the next step will be to provide professional development to the rest of the school. 

3. Play is Powerful

Integrating a 1-to-1 program alters the learning environment school-wide. Creating an atmosphere of play increases the school’s ability to adapt to changing conditions and enhances teachers’ capacity to innovate. We found that sessions that put a premium on play increase curiosity and experimentation, and give both teachers and students more confidence in orienting and guiding themselves within this new landscape.

4. Mindfulness is Fundamental

Research has shown how constant connectivity fractures our attention, and makes it more challenging for us to synthesize new information. We all must be mindful of how digital tools and perpetual web connectivity are shaping our brains and habits.  Fortunately, there are several promising studies that have demonstrated the power of mindfulness meditation in schools to improve executive functioning and reduce stress, anxiety, and aggression.

As a result, we have introduced a series of seminars to our ninth graders that take place during our co-curricular time. These seminars focus on metacognition and technology and present an overview of how technology shapes our brains and thinking, in both positive and negative ways. Then we have discussions about developing strategies for using technology effectively at school and beyond.

5. It’s Important to Learn to Fail

All scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs understand that failure is part of creativity.  If you’re not willing to fail then you severely limit your creative capacity.  When integrating a 1-to-1 program there will be failures. Yet, for the most part, schools have an aversion to failure. Learning to fail, and how to recover and adapt, is an essential skill if you hope to be resilient teacher, student, or school.

One of my early failures provided one of my most crucial insights: technology should not be the driver of technology integration. Pedagogy should be the driver, which means engaging the community with the question: what does it mean to be well educated in the world of today and tomorrow? By focusing on the skills and knowledge that can best prepare students for our changing times, it becomes apparent which digital tools will enhance those specific learning goals.

Common Sense Media has just published a set of resources that promotes thinking through many of the issues I have outlined today. The tools span three phases of a rollout: planning, communicating, and implementation. I would recommend these free resources to any school undertaking a 1-to-1 program.

What lessons have you learned from implementing a 1-to-1 program? Comment below.