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Tag: 1:1 computing (Page 1 of 2)

Something is Missing

It’s been a couple of years since the Los Angeles Unified School District received national attention for the roll out of their 1:1 device program. And not attention in a good way.

This past July a group of researchers released an assessment of the program that offered “lessons on what not to do when rolling out technology and devices across a large school district”.

It’s long, very academic, and full of suggestions that should have been obvious from the start. Like better planning, communications, and professional development.

However, towards the very end of the executive summary the report arrives at what was probably at the core of the problem with LA’s initiative.

At its heart, the ITI [Instructional Technology Initiative] is about both technology and instruction, and effective management of it required coordination and communication between technical and instructional teams and leaders. The structure of LAUSD (and many other districts) is such that the instructional division is separate from the technical division. These divisions did not seem reach a level of collaboration that would be needed to avoid the challenges ITI encountered, and on some issues seemed to be unable to resolve differences in perspective (for example, on issues related to Apple IDs).

As I’ve ranted about more than a few times, Fairfax County, my former employer (aka the overly-large school district) is at the beginning of the process to implement a 1:1 program. But long before that, they already had cemented in place that same problem from LAUSD.

That “coordination and communication” between the technical and instruction departments is tenuous at best. With IT making instructional decisions, primarily due to a lack of leadership on the instructional side.

IT’s goal is for these 1:1 devices to be cheap and easy to manage, and I don’t blame them for that. Instruction’s goal is far less clear.

In the shiny new “strategic plan”, the superintendent and school board have set a target of 2017 for every student to have a device. So one motivation is that the boss said to do it.

At the same time we hear the super, her assistant supers, principals and others speak vaguely about future ready, 21st century skills, digital natives, blah, blah, blah, while continuing to foster, encourage, and support a test prep culture in schools.

Completely missing on the instruction side in this project is a crystal clear articulation of how giving each student a device will transform instruction and improve their learning. Much more difficult than IT’s job.

Forgetting the Other 1

One more post about 1:1 computing programs and I’ll let the topic rest for a while.

In his post yesterday, Doug says he is advocating in his district to give a computing device to all students in grades 6-12. But he refuses to call it a 1:1 program.

Instead of emphasizing the device (which that name certainly does), he wants everyone to understand that the primary purpose of whatever is selected is to enable students to have 24/7 access to digital resources.

Watching our 1:1 project unfold here in the overly-large school district, I completely understand his concerns.

Planning is led by the IT department, due in large part to abdication of responsibility by leaders of the Department of Instruction, and discussions are all about which device to buy1, how they will be distributed, security, maintenance, and pretty much everything other than how they will be used for student learning.

Even if we do arrive at the topic of instruction, often at the end of the meeting when everyone is packing up to leave, it’s always in the context of how the devices will reinforce and support teachers traditional practice.

Oh, and there’s one other missing element in all this planning: student voices. One of those 1’s represents kids, but we never ask them what they want from all this. Instead we spend most of our time worrying about the other 1, the device.

Not Ready to Change

And speaking of the blossoming 1:1 program here in our overly-large school district (as I was in my previous rant)…

About the same time as our sessions for teachers this month, we heard that the principal of one of the project schools decided to delay implementation until the beginning of the next academic year.

Why? She simply said “We are not ready.”

Which also wasn’t a surprise.

In most of our schools, there is no sense that something fundamental needs to change. It’s all about the tests and the feeling is that any problems we have with kids not passing them can be fixed with what we already have. The same curriculum, pedagogy, and processes.

With putting kids through more time practicing the tested subjects. By collecting more data (always more data). Through “remediation” programs, in which students largely do the same thing they didn’t respond to in their regular classes.

And using computers as data collection terminals, not for creation, collaboration, or communication.

“We are not ready” to change anything about our instructional practice so why bother with the distraction of giving kids computers.

We Don’t Have Time For Technology

Our superintendent and board here in the overly-large school district want us to have a 1:1 computing program. It’s right there in their newly-released strategic plan: “Achieve goal of one electronic device per student” by the end of the 2016-17 school year.

Rather ambitious considering our size and lack of money, but ya gotta dream big, right?

Anyway, a few of our high schools are already heading down that path thanks to a generous grant from the state (and due to them not meeting AYP targets). With it they can issue low-cost computing devices to all their students, with the choice of phasing it in by class or going all the way.

To get them started, some of their teachers spent part of their summer break discussing how their instruction might change when every student had a computer every day. Or at least that was the idea.

While talking with one of the participants during a break she told me, “This is all very good but I don’t have time to do technology with my kids.”

The remark didn’t surprise me.

Many of our teachers, and probably most of our administrators, still view the use of technology as a nice-to-have extra. Something that is grafted on to the classic curriculum and traditional pedagogy. Maybe even a reward for students when they’ve finished their “regular” work.

And even with a school board directive and lots of state money, I don’t expect that attitude will change very soon.

Moving Forward by Delivering Devices

Continuing on the topic of 1:1 device programs, Wired has a very good review of the lessons learned (and not learned) in the high-profile mess the leadership of Los Angeles schools created for themselves two years ago.

Currently everyone involved is pointing fingers, with the LA superintendent blaming Apple, Pearson, and technology in general. While still buying an additional $40 million worth of iPads and Chromebooks to be used “exclusively for testing”.

Michael Horn, an author and education consultant, hopes the expensive experience of LA “will get people to pause and learn the bigger lesson”. And what is that bigger lesson?

“LA is emblematic of a problem we’re seeing across the country right now,” he says. “Districts are starting with the technology and not asking themselves: ‘What problem are we trying to solve, and what’s the instructional model we need to solve it?’ and then finding technology in service of that.”

I’ll be plastering that quote on the wall at the next 1:1 meeting I attend here in the overly-large school district.

“A lot of schools get into trouble when the conversation starts with the vendor,” Horn says. “Where I’ve seen these programs work is when the school starts off with its vision, and only once they’ve sketched out what the solution should look like do they go out to the hardware and software communities to mix and match to meet those needs.”

Horn goes on to note that ed tech vendors often “design their software in a vacuum” without understanding how their products might be used in a real classroom.

On the other side of the equation many schools and districts are also wearing a mighty set of blinders when it comes to the possibilities for using technology, even tools not specifically labeled “ed tech”, for student learning. That, of course, may require examining and possibly changing our traditional practices

However, after all their problems over the past two years, I’m not at all sure the leadership of LAUSD has learned much, based on this statement from a district spokesperson: “We’re still very much moving forward in technology and continuing to deliver devices to schools.”

Someone probably needs to remind them again that “moving forward” in education is least of all about “delivering devices”.

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