Written By Andrew Marcinek
Have you ever wondered what it really means to transform your district, school, or classroom to a 1:1 environment? It is a term we hear a lot about, but not all can see it or experience it. With the takeoff of the iPad and its successor, the iPad 2, the education world is abuzz with the idea of moving towards a 1:1 environment. But is it practical? For some, it is a dream, a wish; for others, it is slowly becoming a reality. So what does a 1:1 environment look like? How will the students and teachers react? Is it the right direction to go?
Step 1: Define the Goals of your 1:1 Program
A 1:1 environment should be the goal of every learning institution; however, this is not about devices, it's about access. I imagine every school superintendent, principal, and teacher would agree that it is in their best interest to provide their students with the best access to the most current, scholarly information available. There is no doubt that this idea is embedded in every school's mission statement. So let's dig a little into the question of what a 1:1 environment looks like.
Step 2: Define the Role of the Device in Your Classroom
Some may argue that a 1:1 environment should focus solely on the device; however, this is not the case. While selecting the right device for your school is essential, making it the focal point is not the best way to deliver it. The device is simply a device. It is not coming to take over your classroom, nor is it replacing your quality teaching. Teachers must welcome the device like their predecessors welcomed the chalk board, the calculator and the CD-ROM. They must understand that this device will give their students a better opportunity to share, connect, and seek out information. This device will not be a distraction, but another arm of the classroom.
Step 3: Model How to Harness the Device's Power
Once you have welcomed the device and take the time to understand it, you must model for your students how to harness its power. If you are still a bit unsure, you can seek out a student who is skilled on the device or your Instructional Technology Coach. If neither of these options is a reality for you, then find a colleague(s) who understands the device and how it can work for you in your classroom. Demand good professional development that not only presents the device’s functionality, but displays examples of it in use. This professional development should also be tiered by experience level. Differentiating your professional development will create happy teachers and increase the acceptance of the device or tool being displayed. Above all, knowing the basic functionality of any device, whether it be a TI-84 calculator or a piece of chalk, will ease your worries going forward.
Step 4: Put It Away When Appropriate
A 1:1 environment will not always have a device on display. There will be times when your best lesson is done in the absence of technology. Similarly, your students shouldn’t become attached to the device, but understand when it should be accessed. Administrators should not demand that device always be used as well. Allow your teachers some learning and growing time as they begin to integrate the device. Continually follow up with them and ask them how they have incorporated technology and if they need any further professional development. The goal should never be to rush technology integration, but segue but creating clear objectives and goals for each teacher.
Step 5: Teach, Model and Support Information Literacy
Students should understand that a device is an avenue for learning and discovery, but it cannot replace their own ability to think critically and question. The device will give them access to a plethora of information and potential answers, but it will not always give them a clear course to follow. Also, as teachers, we must never assume that our students know the best way around technology. While some of our students could proudly display the badge of “Digital Native," many will need coaching. Simply accessing Google or finding the hilarious video of the singing Cat does not make you a digital native.
Filtering information and knowing the most efficient route to a solution is an invaluable skill. While students have access to more information than any generation, their ability to filter is much more challenging. Once your students understand that it is time to access the device, they must begin to filter through a vast field of weeds. Students must realize that Google is a great start, but not always going to provide them the best direction. The ability to call upon key search terms and look beyond Google are two skills every student must learn.
A 1:1 environment should not be intimidating. It should be our ally in the daily task to provide our students with the best access to information and promote learning. There is no denying the rapid pace of our world and its ever-changing economy. It is our responsibility as educators - at every level - to prepare our students for this environment. The environment will not adapt to them, they must adapt to the demand of the market. A 1:1 environment is simply a start.