I’ve written more than a few times in this space about Fairfax County Schools, my former employer and the district formerly known as the overly-large school district, slow (very slow) efforts to implement a 1-1 computing program. When you have almost 190,000 students and a budget with too many antiquated priorities, I guess slow is the only way you can go.
My friend and former colleague Margaret is the tech professional development specialist for the one high school (out of 25) that will be part of the pilot 1-1 program next fall. And she is worried about1 the pushback she is getting from some on her staff concerning the coming changes.
Last week a teacher said to me “I’m not going to change something I’m doing just so kids can use technology.”
I think this represents our biggest hurdle and misconception about this transition. The idea that we are making changes to instruction to include technology rather than changing instruction to help students learn.
The big idea here is that this isn’t about the device. We keep saying that but it doesn’t seem to be sinking in.
Margaret is right in categorizing that attitude towards change as a hurdle, but I’m not so sure it’s a misconception on the part of this teacher. I’m betting this particular staff member has been around long enough to have seen many similar initiatives, technological and others, come and go over the years. He/she knows that the only thing new in the classroom next year will likely be more devices.
The curriculum won’t change. The overemphasis on testing, coming from the state plus AP and IB, will be the same. Any training she gets will be far more focused on operating the technology than on the pedagogy necessary to make best use of the devices. School administrators will also receive incomplete training on what a 1-1 should look like, and will be more concerned with equipment theft and student “hackers”.2
I think I’ve heard the concept of “it’s not about the device” repeated hundreds of times in Fairfax, by everyone from the superintendent on down. But actions rarely followed the talk.
The process of implementing 1-1 in Fairfax is largely being lead by the IT department (unless something drastic has changed in the past ten months), with most of the time in planning sessions I attended before my exit last year was spent on topics such as what device, how it would be deployed and managed, and what to do if the kids did something wrong. Changes to instructional process came at the end of the agenda, if at all, and alterations to curriculum were rarely were discussed. Plus, one of my big gripes, very few teachers were involved in high level planning and kids were excluded altogether.
Anyway, it will be interesting to watch the rollout of the Fairfax 1-1 project. And I hope Margaret and everyone involved are able to affect some genuine change for their teachers and students using the flood of new equipment that’s coming next fall.
Although I have little evidence to believe that major changes to the way that students learn are coming as a result, I really would love to be proved wrong. Really!