Hitting the Mark with Educational Technology

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Welcome to our Educational Technology Influencer Series with EmergingEdTech.com’s Kelly Walsh. As Founder of EmergingEdTech.com and the CIO at The College of Westchester in White Plains, NY, Kelly is passionate about education and exploring the use of technology as an instructional tool and student success enabler. 

Guest Blog Post By: Kelly Walsh

You don’t have to search very far to find stories about 1:1 school program initiatives allowing schools to provide every student with a computing device (ipad, laptop, etc). Unfortunately, large scale failures of these programs due to lack of planning are also widespread. In some cases, these programs are initially funded with excess budget or grant monies. No matter what sends schools down this path, administrators seem to have embraced an assumption that providing a computer or tablet to students will magically increase engagement and improve learning outcomes. This uninformed assumption can lead to false expectations, failed implementations and school officials scratching their heads confused as to what went wrong. 

Missed the Mark. 

Around 2002, Maine became the first, and still only, state to offer a statewide laptop program to certain grade levels. An article about the program, published in 2017, stathttps://loulaggancoaching.co.uk/nlp/self-sabotage-do-you-do-it/attachment/missing-target-760-364x220/es,  “…after a decade and a half, and at a cost of about $12 million annually (around 1 percent of the state’s education budget), Maine has yet to see any measurable increases on statewide standardized test scores. That’s part of why Maine’s current governor, Paul LePage, has called the program a “massive failure.””

In 2009, The Hechinger Report blatantly states, giving a New Jersey school district students laptops was a terrible idea. The article explains how Hoboken School district decided to give all of its students laptop computers after an, “unexpected windfall of stimulus money from Washington, D.C. With, the majority of their students being at or below the poverty line, it seemed like a great way to help them keep up with their wealthier peers. But Hoboken faced problem after problem and had to abandon   the laptops entirely this summer. ‘We had the money to buy them, but maybe not the best implementation,’ said Mark Toback, the current superintendent of Hoboken School District. ‘It became unsustainable.’”

According to the Baltimore Sun late last year, Baltimore County schools had to scale back their$147M laptop program after four years citing it produced little change in student achievement. 

In these cases it is challenging to find any evidence of a meaningful plan to integrate the use of the devices into the curriculum, provide professional development to teachers, and plan for the long term support of the devices. Instead, computers were just thrown at the students like a magic wand that would conjure instant engagement and learning.

Right on Target.

Contrast these examples with a successful program like the integration of ipads into student curriculum at Franklin Academy in Wake Forest, North Carolina. School head David Mahaley introduced iPads at the K-12 charter school in 2010 (starting at the high school level and working their way down to middle school over the years that followed). With Mahaley’s stewardship and a faculty that embraced the technology, the school grew to become a widely recognized leader in academic 1:1 iPad programs.
From the start, teachers were offered guidance on how to develop workflow. They were trained on how to use the tools needed to address day-to-day tasks that are essential to both instructional process and student assignments. They learned how iPads collect data in real-time, how to embed assessments, create assessments, and more. Professional development is an essential first-step in developing a successful 1:1 device program.

Gateway Regional School District in Massachusetts decided to equip every student with a Chromebook. Technology Coordinator, Chris Parker, offers 6 steps to successful device programs in (Six Steps to a Successful 1:1 Education Device Program). I agreed with these suggestions and added some of my own brief commentary for each.

  1. Decide what you want to accomplish. You need to have clear, measurable goals (as any organization should for size project – this is management 101).
  2. Budget before you buy: Look at long-term costs to include  things like insurance, maintenance, and teacher training.
  3. Plan for sustainability: Rolling new devices out slowly according to a preset timeline can make for a more sustainable 1:1 device program. If you’re in it for the long term, you need a long-term plan.
  4. Choose the right device: Gateway schools use G-Suite for Education, but at Franklin Academy, the iPad opened doors and possibilities back in 2010 and they trained and adapted curriculum accordingly. 
  5. Take time to assess: Do periodic check-ins to see how the devices were being used. Evaluate what is working, what is not, and d adapt and  edit the plan accordingly.
  6. Have a policy in place. Some key issues that Parker recommends addressing include:
    • When will students be allowed to take devices home?
    • What types of education will be provided for parents?
    • Will the students be taught digital citizenship?
    • What will happen when students forget to return devices to school?
    • How will damage and repairs be addressed?

Providing students with computers can be a powerful enabler, but only when the program is designed with clear goals and the steps to achieve them are clearly laid out.

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