The sheer number of schools that switched to online learning due to the coronavirus has proved the importance of 1 to 1 learning, and with scientists predicting another wave of COVID-19 in the fall, many school leaders whose districts do not yet have a 1 to 1 program want to start deploying devices as soon as possible.
“To be ready in the fall, school leaders really need to be having conversations right now with administrators, teachers, stakeholders and students. Identifying what devices to adopt is only one part of the process,” say tech coaches Bonnie Weinstein and Trudy Cohen, who both spoke on the topic of how to design PD to support 1 to 1 programs at FETC 2020.
At their district, Weinstein and Cohen of Summit Public Schools in New Jersey started planning their initiative a year in advance before rolling out devices in phases.“With any type of tech initiative, it is important to start with your youngest learners because they are the ones who will need the most support,” says Weinstein.
Here are 5 steps that leaders need to take to become a 1 to 1 school district as soon as possible.
1. Start the conversation
School leaders first need to discuss the goals of their district’s 1 to 1 program initiative, the tools and subscriptions students will be using, student and teacher training, and the correlation between devices and curricula.
“If you don’t have the ability to provide devices to every student immediately, first identify and help the students who truly need them,” says Weinstein. Leaders must also communicate with parents and students about internet safety and digital citizenship.
2. Can support be sustained?
Rolling out a successful initiative is just one part of the process. Just as crucial is ensuring all 1 to 1 programs can be maintained. For example, Summit Public Schools has a department that provides both instructional and technical support for teachers.
”Schools need to identify if their infrastructure can actually support a 1 to 1 initiative and then how to extend that infrastructure to the home environment,” says Cohen.
3. Identify and prepare 1 to 1 devices
School leaders need to place purchasing orders for their devices between now and the beginning of June so IT officials can create the logins and set up security protocols during the summer.
“You shouldn’t just be handing students devices and saying ‘Good luck,’” says Weinstein. “These devices need to have features installed to make them secure and ensure students use them in a safe manner.”
4. Conduct professional development
“If we were rolling out a new initiative in September, we would spend a lot of time in June setting up PD sessions with teachers,” says Cohen. On the first day, teachers should discuss what it means to have every student on devices and how classroom routines are going to change. The second and third days need to involve identifying device subscriptions and the importance of digital citizenship.
“Usually, our teachers have five months to take digital citizenship lessons and set up routines in their classrooms after PD,” says Cohen. “But if you need to fast-forward all of that, I would have a full day of PD with teachers remotely and then have teachers participate in workshops that are broken down by grade level.” Providing teachers with faculty who are familiar with the technology will help expedite this process.
Teachers who don’t have access to tech coaches can participate in free webinars, digital conferences and ed camps provided by solution providers.
5. Choose the right subscriptions
Even though many companies are providing free tools and subscriptions, the amount of available options can be overwhelming. “Teachers need to focus on a few key tools that are going to help their districts reach their goals,” says Weinstein. “If leaders allow their teachers to download or subscribe to whatever they want, it will be hard to support all of them without having anyone in the district serving as experts.”
Leaders should therefore provide guidelines for each grade level and promote communication between teachers to choose two tools, for example, that can be introduced to parents and students.
“Approaching this slowly is very important and not giving teachers everything at the same time,” adds Cohen. “Make sure you provide short sessions so they don’t feel overwhelmed.”
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