President's Corner                                           Page 46


The Untold Story of 1-to-1





If you’ve followed this column during the past few months, you’ve noticed I use stories to illustrate a point or to expand on the theme of the magazine. That’s not the case this month because, in my view, the story of 1-to-1 computing is yet to be written. That task falls to you, our nation’s education leaders.

The 1-to-1 computing movement, which involves putting a mobile computing device in the hands of every student and teacher, is driven by a belief that ready access to technology will lead to more effective teaching and learning, greater efficiencies and the development of the research and communication skills necessary for students to succeed in a global society.

However, technology is a vehicle for learning, not an end goal. Mobile computing devices alone will no more increase learning than a pen creates good writing or a paintbrush creates a masterpiece on canvas. Success demands other essential factors — people, planning and leadership.

I am fortunate to be part of a movement in southeastern Wisconsin that’s focused on school transformation. Superintendents across 45 school districts are working collaboratively to personalize learning for our students and customize our learning environments for greater effectiveness and greater efficiencies.

Without a doubt, technology is a key component in that personalized, customized environment. We are learning, though, that purchasing technology does not in and of itself improve teaching and learning — only an investment in people and infrastructure does. That’s the real story of 1-to-1 computing.

Consider these suggestions as you write the 1-to-1 computing story for your school or district:

INVEST IN PEOPLE FIRST. Begin with a group of willing, motivated teachers and pay careful and consistent attention to the need for staff development. Teaching in a digital environment differs from teaching in a traditional environment. If you put your money into your staff first, you will reap greater benefits than if you buy a bunch of technology and expect everyone to know what to do. Change takes time and requires support.

CONSIDER THE TECHNICAL SUPPORT NECESSARY FOR SUCCESS. Adequate infrastructure and a strong information technology department are vital. More devices and more users mean more demands on the network and infrastructure. Education leaders must consider the resources necessary to expand local and wide area networks to meet the increasing needs of the teachers and students.

In addition, as teachers become more familiar with the potential of digital learning, they will need technical support from a strong, knowledgeable instructional technology department.

INVOLVE STUDENTS. Personalized learning through technology must include student voices. Devise plans for student engagement and invite students to participate in the creation of projects and assignments; after all, they are the learners. The use of technology provides differentiated options for all students and requires students to take ownership of their learning.

CREATE A COMMUNICATION PLAN. Tell your story as it unfolds. Parents and community members want to be brought along during the process, not surprised in the end. Besides, new learning initiatives are exciting and can energize parents and community members. Their support can be vital to the success of the program.

PROMISE LEADERSHIP SUPPORT. The development of personalized, customized learning environments requires a long-term commitment from education leaders, not just a flash-in-the-pan technology purchase. Commit to leading the initiative or assign someone the role of coordinating and leading the work that needs to be done. It won’t happen by itself.

The true story of 1-to-1 computing is waiting to be told. It’s a story today’s education leaders must create as students use and bring even more devices to school.

Patricia Neudecker is AASA president for 2011-12. E-mail:


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