By Tracey Beckendorf-Edou
By now, most of us have heard of the 1:1 (one to one) initiative, meaning that every Oak Ridge student would have a device to use both at home and at school. The following are a few of the reasons why going 1:1 is important.
Mostly, it’s better for kids
We live in a world today in which children learn through technology and are often more engaged with what they are learning when technology is incorporated. Technology does not replace good teaching, but it enhances good teaching. Technology does not replace face-to-face communication, but it adds other modes of communication. Does that mean that technology would be included in every lesson? Of course not. Students still need to explore our world in other ways. Going 1:1 does not require teachers to give up their wonderful non-technology related lessons or for students to be glued to their devices 24/7.
But going 1:1 leads us to think: What’s possible? How can students interact with what is happening outside the walls of the classroom? How can students collaborate with people from across the world? How can students receive immediate feedback so that they can improve on their mistakes immediately? For some examples of what that looks like elsewhere, please see here.
One benefit of going 1:1 is that students can do research in the classroom very easily. As Oak Ridge High School science teacher Frank Wood says: “We want students to be problem solvers, not problem memorizers. One-to-one computing goes a long way toward enabling this response.” He adds that going one-to-one promotes creativity, workplace readiness, and preparation for college; it allows the teacher to be flexible to develop lessons that move at the pace of the individual student; and students are able to delve into questions that go beyond the scope of the course. When students find that they can answer their own questions, it’s empowering. Technology is a tool that allows students to create products that express their learning in new and meaningful ways. For more information, see An Introduction to Technology Integration here.
It is important to note that 95 percent of U.S. teens use the Internet, 74 percent on a mobile device (see here). If we want our students to be ready for a technology-rich career and life, then we need to engage them in learning how to use technology in safe, respectful, efficient, and enriching manners.
Oak Ridge is not the only district to be thinking about 1:1. Sooner or later, we will need to make that commitment, but why later? Oak Ridge Schools has been a leader in education in the state and nation, so why not now?
In the near future, state testing will be online. So far, we have had mostly paper-pencil testing, but those days are ending. Next year, we will have online writing assessments given by the state; the year after that, we are expecting that almost all state testing will be online or will be transitioning to an online environment.
Last school year, students from across the state took a practice writing assessment and Oak Ridge students outperformed the state in every category (focus/organization, support/elaboration, language/style, and conventions). Yet, when students were asked about writing assessment practice, the only way that Oak Ridge students differed from the state as a whole was in computer writing practice. About 80 percent of Oak Ridge eighth-grade students, for example, reported that they had some to frequent computer writing practice as compared with about 50 percent of their peers across the state. We therefore infer that computer writing practice is beneficial to helping students prepare for online assessments.
This conclusion could lead us to believe that we are already set for computer writing practice; however, there are other competing needs for our current computers.
Response to Intervention and Instruction (RTI2)
Starting in the 2014-2015 school year, all elementary schools across the state are required to offer support for students who are struggling in English, language arts, and mathematics during the school day under very prescriptive definitions. Every student receiving intervention will need to have an intervention plan and will need to do work targeted to his/her particular areas of need. This means that Johnny, who is struggling with adding, will need to have different interventions than Susie, who is struggling with multiplying. With every child needing something different, it makes a lot of sense to use a blended instructional approach, meaning sometimes the child will use adaptive computer-based technology based on his/her specific needs and sometimes the child will work in small groups led by a teacher. Both are important.
The way our computer laboratories work now, we don’t have the capacity to have the computer-based interventions that we need while simultaneously allowing students to practice online assessments and/or do other research-based projects in the classroom.
RTI2 will extend to the middle schools in 2015-2016 and to the high school in 2016-2017, but all secondary schools are already piloting elements of RTI2.￼￼￼
BYOD doesn’t suffice
We could go BYOD (bring your own device), meaning that students could bring their own devices to school to use during the school day. There are, however, a multitude of difficulties inherent in being a BYOD district. One issue is that student devices would be unregulated. Students could be going to unauthorized sites and be participating in unproductive behavior with their devices. If the district owns the devices, then we can install software to view student screens during class in order to prevent off-task behavior. We can also limit the rights for students to install non-approved software. In an unregulated environment, devices can be very distracting.
Also, not every student has a device. Even students who do have devices do not have the same device and even students who have the same device do not have the same updates. It is fairer and provides a better instructional environment when everyone is operating from the same platform.
If we go 1:1, what does that mean?
Going 1:1 means that we will have initial start-up costs. We need to have good technology infrastructure, we need to have technicians, and we need to have professional development on using technology in the classroom in meaningful ways. We will need backpacks that protect devices and we will need to have processes in place for damaged and lost devices.
Going 1:1 does not mean that devices are more important than people. Teachers teach students how to read, write, research, have healthy lifestyles, solve math problems, and ask questions about the world around us, among a whole host of other important things. Devices don’t replace teachers; they simply enhance what teachers and students can and will do in the time allotted to them.
Going 1:1 is a demonstration that our community is staying cutting-edge, that we are committed to offering the best education we can, and that Oak Ridge Schools is a great school district for new families in the area.
Tracey Beckendorf-Edou is supervisor of staff development for Oak Ridge Schools.