1:1 Laptop Programs

1:1 in the Classroom: Learning to become mindful

From The Church of Facebook by Jesse Rice.

While our middle school has been 1:1 for 3 1/2 years last year was our first in the high school. The roll-out went smoothly and students and teachers settled into the new environment with very few issues. I will admit that I would occasionally hear teachers complain about students being distracted and off task while on the computer.  Often I hear 1:1 advocates respond to this issue with, “If the learning activities in a 1:1 environment don’t change, the students will lose interest and become distracted.  Students can’t just use the laptops for note taking in lectures.” This was certainly not the case with many of our classrooms. I took the grumbling seriously since it was coming from educators who I respected. I’d seen other classrooms where the laptops were only being used for taking notes during lectures and these settings were ripe for off task behavior, but this was not the case.

At this same time I noticed a change in my habits and behaviors online. I was having trouble focusing and I was spending way too much time sorting through e-mail. One example is that I’d open and e-mail, click on a link, return to my e-mail waiting for the link to load and keep moving on. Before long I had 20 tabs open and I hadn’t really focused on any of the resources. As I work on this post I frequently find myself yearning to check my e-mail. Sure, I’ve read Nicholas Carr’s, The Shallows: What the internet is doing to our brains (which Rheingold  so I was aware of how technology was changing the way my brain works, but I my mind was slowly changing. This is the exact issue that our students face when it comes to the internet and distractions.

Pamela Livingston’s in her post 1:1 in the Classroom – Digital Distraction gives teachers practical tips for dealing with this issue in the classroom.  I’d like to also suggest the ideas that Howard Rheingold offers in NetSmart: How to thrive online. While Rheingold is an avid user of the net and a staunch supporter of technology, he promotes the skills and habits of “mindfulness” which is one area of his concept of  “Infotention”.  In the book, Rheingold quotes Maggie Jackson, author of Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming of Dark Age.  Jackson states, “If focus skills can be groomed, as research has begun to hint, the important next question is whether, and how, attention should be integrated into education. Will attention become a 21st-century ‘discipline’, a skill taught by parents, educators, even employers?” I believe that we do have to teach these skills in our classrooms. Rheingold offers the following strategies for becoming mindful, and paying attention.

  1. Meditation
  2. Plan blocks of uninterrupted time to focus on a task.
  3. Creating short-term goals and focus on meeting those within defined periods.
  4. Practice working on a single task for 15 – 20 minutes at a time.
  5. Create a diary of your online behaviors to be used to reflect on habits.

These ideas can certainly be incorporated in the classroom and Rheingold also has examples of what he does in his classes. For those of you who would like to learn more about these I ideas I encourage you to read Net Smart. I believe that we owe it to ourselves and our students to become more cognizant of how the internet is changing our lives and habits.

Never quite satisfied…

Photo from Affordable Housing Institute: US, http://affordablehousinginstitute.org/blogs/us/

This post is in celebration of Scott Mcleod’s Leadership Day 2012 (even though it’s several months late)

This post is all about Peter Senge’s concept of creative tension. The concept that I chose to base this blog on.

“The gap between vision and current reality is also a source of energy. If there were no gap, there would be no need for any action to move towards the vision. We call this gap creative tension.”

In February 2008, I attended the Unplugged Conference at the American School of Bombay. I remember it well since it was a life changing experience for me. After watching the ASB teachers and students seamlessly use technology for teaching and learning I knew that I had to be working in a 1 to 1 laptop environment. At the time I was the middle/high school principal at Mont’Kiara International School in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. By the 2009 school year, when I realized that we weren’t going to transition to a 1:1 environment, I decided to quit my job. My desire to lead in that setting was that strong. By 2010 I signed on as the high school principal at Graded in Sao Paulo, Brazil and the middle school was in the process of going 1:1. This was exactly the type of opportunity that I was looking for.

Fortunately I work with some amazing educators who were open to the idea of moving in this direction. We created a high school task force that included teachers, administrators, students and parents and the group was charged with leading the learning and planning for the August 2012 roll out. We were fortunate to be able to work closely with Shabbi Luthra from ASB and Scott Mcleod even joined us virtually for one of our meetings. There were certainly times when we questioned what we were doing but we were committed to changing our learning culture.

Over time we developed actions plans that included developing our capacity by embedding professional development into our normal work and learning, attending conferences and networking with other educators. The plans also led to a responsible use policy, identifying our digital toolkit, adding additional power outlets and making sure that there was sufficient power and increased bandwidth. On August 2nd, almost 4 years after my visit to ASB, I can finally state that I am the principal of a 1:1 high school.  For some reason August 2nd was anti-climatic. It certainly was not what I had expected it to be. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really happy that teachers and students have 24/7 access to technology and that the classroom learning environment is evolving. Our new focus is integrating our ICT standards into current units. It’s now about working with students to use technology to develop these skills and knowledge.

As you can imagine, there have been ups and downs this first semester and we’re all doing our best to to become “master” 21st century educators. For some reason we’re just not satisfied. While we may not realize it, changes are happening in the classroom and that this is all part of our journey.  We also have to use this healthy tension as a source of energy to move toward our vision. After all, it’s all about creative tension.

1:1 Laptops = Head Fake

  • We have been planning for our 1:1 rollout for the past year and a half and the event finally took place last week. Graded is fully 1:1 in the middle and high schools. During this time it has become clear to all of us that all of our talk about 1:1 was just a head fake. Randy Pausch described the “head fake” in ,  “Last Lecture: Achieving your Childhood Dreams”. Dr. Pausch talks about the indirect learning that happens when you’re involved in an activity. One example that he offers is from parents wanting their children to play football.

“We actually don’t want our kids to learn football. … we send our kids out to learn much more important things. Teamwork, sportsmanship, perseverance, et cetera, et cetera.”

Transcript of Lecture

For all of our talk about becoming a 1:1 school, we didn’t just want teachers and students walking around campus with machines. We learned quickly that what we wanted was so much more. This is where the commonly heard expression “it’s not about the technology” fits. Sure, we planned for electricity, software, bandwidth, polices and procedures, but the real learning came with those bigger questions that we are still tackling.

Finding the answers to these questions is where the real learning occurs and this is why our journey will continue.

  • What skills and knowledge do our students need to learn for now? Future?
  • Is the culture of learning different today?
  • “How do I help teachers bring authentic assessment and real world problem solving to the classrooms?”
  • With the technology in hand, what new resources will help with learning?
  • “How can we balance the teaching-learning process both on-line and face to face mode in a 1:1 program?”
  • “The relationship between new learning and old learning – is it a paradigm shift or a continuum?”
  • “How do we manage student learning as we encourage more outside/digital interaction/play?”
  • “What is the best way to change structures at Graded to support learning outside of traditional classes…and should we?”

We know that we have just begun the journey and that it’s going to be an exciting one for our entire community. If was really just about moving to a 1:1 environment we’d be done and we could check that task off our list.

Seeking Student Voices on Learning in a 1:1 Environment

Share your 1:1 story with us

Spread the word. Graded high school is looking for video testimonials from students who are  learning in a 1 to 1 laptop school. This idea came about when one of our students said that we should try to appeal to our student body in ways that will appeal to teenagers. You can help us kick off our 1:1 rollout in August.  Create a short video telling us about your experiences in this environment and share it with us on Youtube.  Consider telling us about  the following:

  • Why we should be excited about learning in a 1:1 environment.
  • How your learning has changed.
  • Your personal story about experiences.
  • A story about your school’s 1:1 journey.
  • What we have to look forward to.
  • Anything else that you think Graded students will find interesting.

We hope to be able to connect with students from around the world. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions (blair.peterson@graded.br).

The journey can be exciting and scary at the same time.

Flickr by Edge of Space

In December 2009, I used this photo in my Leadership and 1:1 Bus post and last year I used it with the Graded faculty to describe our journey to provide students with a relevant education for today and the future. This journey includes going 1:1 in August 2012. For me the photo conjures up excitement and fear. And while some people are adventurous enough to sit on top or hang on the side, others feel more comfortable inside. It doesn’t matter where one sits, the important thing is that we’re all together on the journey.

When is it exciting and often magical?  When our students are using technology for learning, creative and original thinking, communication and collaboration, research and information literacy and critical thinking and problem solving.

When is it a bit scary?  When we are uncertain of what is coming next or when we have to step outside our comfort zone to try something new.

We have so much to be proud because we have traveled so far in such a short amount of time. This year we have done the following to prepare for a full 1:1 rollout in August.

  • Support professional development at conferences by providing faculty with the opportunity to attend the Laptop Institute at Lausanne Collegiate and Unplugged at the American School of Bombay.
  • Provided all of our teachers and administrators with laptops so that we all get used to working anytime, anywhere.
  • Using digital tools to help us with our work and our learning. The idea is that we will experiment and figure out what works as we do the same in our classrooms.
  • Created PLCs around assessment in today’s digital environment.
  • Reviewed and redesigned our curriculum in science and English with a 21st century lens.
  • Encouraged students to bring in laptops to ease the transition for August.
  • Defined our Information Communication and Technology standards that will be integrated schoolwide next year.
  • Provided teachers with a full-time academic technology coordinator to support them with integrating technology and professional development.
  • Developed our acceptable use policy and LARK guidelines so that our community members can be responsible digital citizens.
  • Developed a digital toolkit that will provide us with some software standardization in our bring your own laptop environment.
  • Upgraded facilities so that we have electrical power throughout the campus.

We realize that the journey is not over yet. In reality, we’ve really only traveled a short distance. The key is that we are well on our way to transforming the learning experiences for our students.

What would your perfect conference look like?

Image In October, we enthusiastically agreed to join forces with Lausanne Collegiate, The American School of Bombay and Frankfurt International School as a member of the Laptop Institute team. January 19 – 21, 2013 Graded will host the Innovate 2013 Conference. Since then we have had a blast working to plan a meaningful learning experience for all participants. We started by determining a name and a theme and then took ideas from some of the best conferences that member of the planning group had attended. We considered The Laptop Institute, ASB Unplugged, Learning 2.011, K12 Online Conference, Educon 2.4, and a few others.

Our committee still has a long way to go as we strive to break the conference mold but we are excited about the direction that we’re heading. Below is our current stance on our learning structures.

Innovate 2013 Learning Structures

In an effort to combat the Education Myths That Shape Conferences, Innovate 2013 is committed to providing a variety of learning structures to support participants in investigating innovation and planning for transfer in ways that are powerful for them personally.

Two-hour Open Space Slot: Open Space Technology was created in the mid-1980s by organizational consultant Harrison Owen when he discovered that people attending his conferences loved the coffee breaks better than the formal presentations and plenary sessions. This block of time is designed to hand over the conference to participants to determine what kinds of dialogue need to happen that we at Innovate 2013 missed in our planning.

Cohort meetings:  Scheduled three times throughout the conference, cohorts are a group of 20 – 25 individuals that gather regularly to exchange ideas, reflect on learning and create connections that result in meaningful, personalized outcomes from the conference. Organized and focused by a facilitator, participants are encouraged to choose into a cohort that best defines where their driving question about educational innovation may reside. This learning structure is designed for participants to build a plan for taking learning back to their organizations.

Cohort strands to choose from include:

  • Leadership
  • Instructional Technology Facilitators
  • The People Behind the Scenes: Infrastructure
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Differentiation/Special Needs
  • Assessment
  • NCTE Twenty-First Century Literacies
  • The Arts
  • Collaboration in local and global communities
  • Physical Education
  • Student

90 minute workshops and three-hour institutes: We invite YOU, our participants, to share your work and ideas with everyone by presenting at the conference. Come and share how you or your school are integrating technology in the classroom, challenging the status quo, or pursuing strategies that place students in the center.  Share your experiences launching and implementing a 1-to-1 program, utilizing digital tools to support assessment practices, building collaborative communities, or examining strategies that add to the dialogue of educational innovation.

We’d love to hear your ideas on what makes a conference valuable for your own learning. If you had the chance to plan your own conference, what would it look like?

Would this article make you want to learn in a 1:1 school?

Alan Schwarz’s New York Times article, Out With Textbooks, in With Laptops for an Indiana School District highlights the the new 1:1 laptop initiative in Munster, IN.

I’m a bit shocked by the focus of the article and the way that the program is portrayed. Take a look at a few of the quotes from the article and you tell me what you tell me what you think.

This is the quote from Ms. Stafford that ends the article. “This wasn’t a technology initiative — this was a curriculum initiative,”

OK, but look at these other ones.

  • “The day all have seen coming — traditional textbooks being replaced by interactive computer programs…”
  • “The material we’re teaching is old but everything around it is brand-new,” said Pat Premetz, chairwoman of the math department at Wilbur Wright Middle School
  • “Uncuffed, Angela Bartolomeo’s sixth graders spent a recent Wednesday rearranging terms of equations on an interactive Smart Board and dragging-and-dropping answers in ways that chalkboards never could. (In between, a cartoon character exclaimed that “Multiplying by 1 does not change the value of a number!” in his best superhero baritone.)”
  • “When Ms. Norman told the students to take out their ear buds to watch a video, two in the back yelped, “Cool!””
  • “With a textbook, you can only read what’s on the pages — here you can click on things and watch videos,” said Patrick Wu, a seventh grader. “It’s more fun to use a keyboard than a pencil.

Are these the main reasons that we advocate for providing students and teachers with access to technology? Are these examples of higher level learning in a 21st century classroom? I applaud the efforts of the school district and teachers. I just think that this article fails to capture the real reason why the district decided to go 1:1.

The Beginning of the Year School Supply List in a 1:1 Environment

Photo by Pink Punk Shelly

Check out the supply list for you typical school and you’ll find a list like the following.

6th Grade
• 1 pen/pencil pouch*
• 2 one inch binders (one of these should be green)
• Minimum of 25 #2 pencils (NO MECHANICAL PENCILS)
• Minimum of 5 red ink pens
• Minimum of 5 ink pens (blue or black)
• 8 low odor dry erase markers
• 300 3×5 ruled index cards
• 2 boxes (8 count) colored pencils
• 2 yellow highlighters
• 2 folders with pockets (one red, one orange)
• 2 one subject spiral notebooks (one blue, one green)
• 1- 5 subject spiral notebook w/ plastic cover (red)
• 1- 3 subject spiral notebook w/ plastic cover (yellow)
• 1 hand held pencil sharpener (covered)
• 2 bottles of 4 oz glue
• 1 pair of scissors (Fiskars-no sharp points)
• 1- 8 tab pack of dividers
• Book bag (book bags on wheels will not fit in the lockers)
• 1 box of tissues
• 3 packs of lined notebook paper (loose-leaf paper)
** Students will need a basic calculator and ruler at home
to complete assignments. **

These are suggested supplies for the CORE area subjects. The CORE teachers will begin the year focusing on organizational skills using the above supplies. Elective teachers will give out a supply list when school begins.
If your child brings other supplies to school, or you purchase products for their use at home, please make sure that they are safe products whose vapors are not harmful to breathe. For a list of products and safer substitutes, visit

Materials will be color coded by subject:
Math = Red Science = Green
Social Studies = Blue English = Yellow

From Providence MS in Chesterfield County VA.

What happens in a 1:1 school? Does the list look like this?

Laptop or Tablet PC

  • Microsoft Windows 7 Enterprise Operating System.
  • Microsoft Office 2007 Professional (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access, OneNote).
  • Various other software packages.
My thinking is that the supply list won’t disappear immediately but that it will slowly shrink over time. At our school the kids like to carry expensive pencil cases. I tell the students that I can’t wait for the day when these disappear.
Photo of supplies by {Pink Punk} Shelly

Take Risks…

On Tuesday I made a presentation to the entire high school student body and it did not go exactly as I had hoped. We’ve had a task force working on plans to implement a 1:1 program in 2012 and the timing seemed right to introduce the students to the initiative. The purpose of the assembly was to create an awareness amongst the students of Graded’s plans to start a 1:1 program in the high school in 2012. I also  tried to go beyond the idea of just a 1:1 program by focusing on Graded in 2020. To provide all students with a voice in the discussion I asked all students to bring their mobile devices so that they could participate in a back channel chat.

It’s very interesting because I really thought that the problems would be different in nature. I did not expect that the immature acts of a small number of students would dominate the discussion on the back channel chat. I had asked a colleague to turn it off if someone posted anything inappropriate and about half way through he shut down the computer. This happened even after I gave them three clear rules: 1. Use real names; 2. Conversation has to relate to the topic; and 3. Think before you post. Here are my thoughts on the risk, my learning and the future.

The Risk

As I mentioned, The purpose of the assembly was to create an awareness amongst the students of Graded’s plans to start a 1:1 program in the high school in 2012.

I was certainly nervous and knew that there was a certain level of risk going into the presentation.

  • Will students be receptive to the message?
  • Will the technology work?
  • How will I effectively communicate the message?
  • Will anyone actually participate in the discussion?
  • How will the teachers respond to the topic?
  • What will happen when I all give students voice?

With these questions in mind I set out with purpose. When putting together the presentation my focus was on the topic and I tried to use a mix of text, videos and images to convey the message. Like every good teacher I rehearsed my speech and made sure that the Prezi slideshow, videos, and the back channel tool, Today’s Meet worked.

While I may not have been successful in creating that discussion on the back channel chat, I have anecdotal evidence that discussions are happening. Our film teacher  told me that his class had a “interesting” 15 minute discussion right after the assembly. and our PFL students shared their comments with their teacher. I even find a sense of contentment in the fact that a few stragglers on the back channel chat session posted relevant comments as late as 8:35 pm on Tuesday.

“But Graded is trying to be a pioneer in the area in Brazil. I really admire them for that.”Liberalism Rules at 8:19 PM, 4 May 2011 via web

“And as for the maturity, if this technology was something that we were rather used to, people wouldn’t be so “obsessed” over it, and…” troll at 7:57 PM, 4 May 2011 via web

“I think that although laptops would provide more interactive learning experiences for the students, it would also hinder their concentration”: D at 7:45 PM, 4 May 2011 via web

I’m in search of more stories from students and teachers.

My Learning

Every good educator processes the lesson and whether or not students learned to identify improvements for the future. In this case, let’s think in terms of risk management.

  • It’s probably natural for high school students to get a little giddy when they are introduced to a new tech tool and some will want to play around more than others. Maybe I could have tested the back channel out on smaller groups before doing it with 350 students.
  • Next time I’ll plan to use a back channel tool that shows the identity of the participants. This will take longer to set up but it will be worth it. I can use the expertise of our Academic Technology Facilitator to help me with this setup.
  • I’ll make sure that every student has access via the wireless network. I found out just prior to the presentation that this could have been arranged. I believe that there were students in the audience that wanted to respond to the topic and they were not able to. These students could have turned the conversation. In a 1:1 environment it is so important to provide everyone with the opportunity to participate.
  • I’ll ask the faculty members to bring their mobile devices so that they can participate in a positive manner. Since this is a community discussion their voices are important.
  • I’ll also continue working on building relationships with students so that there is a level of genuine respect between us. It’s my first year and the school and I have much work to do to build stronger relationships with the Graded student body.
  • You can bet that I’ll also set up a way to measure whether or not I was successful in raising awareness.

What other suggestions do you have for me?

The Future

Will I do it again? You bet!

Will I do things differently? Of course.

In today’s learning environment it’s imperative for educators to try new approaches to teaching and learning. I think that it’s actually OK to fail every once in awhile. I’ll probably do a more thorough risk assessment in advance next time. I’m saving the transcript of the back channel because I want to go back and review it in the near future. I envision a time when everyone will have a voice at our assemblies in a meaningful discussions. I would have loved to have seen back channel chats when we had MV_Bill and Nando Reis speak to our community.

Photos: Risk Taking Quote by useitinfo

Risk Assessment by Blue Square Thing

Planning on becoming a school of the future?

Something very exciting happened when our leadership team met for a leadership retreat to work on our vision for Graded. For the longest time we have been focusing on our 1:1 initiative in the middle school and amazingly enough, during the entire retreat, technology never entered the conversation. We even framed our learning around five of ISTE’s Essential Conditions to Effectively Leverage Technology for Learning. The five that we chose were Skilled Personnel,  Curriculum Framework and Student Centered Learning, Ongoing Professional Development, and Assessment and Evaluation.

I think that we owe the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) and their “A Guide to Becoming a School of the Future” for this accomplishment. I highly recommend it as required reading for any school that is planning for the future. I think that we spent so much time focusing on the core of a our school in the future, that it was just assumed that technology would play a major role in the teaching and learning process.

What does the guide have to offer?

The first section is entitled, “Making the Case for Schools of the Future”. Even if you don’t need convincing, I suggest that you read it and share it with those who need to be convinced.

“We can choose to adapt, accepting that we do not know this world as well as our children and look to them to help us learn. Or, we can be infexible immigrants, focusing on how good things used to be. If we are to reach our children and help them learn, we must adapt, we must face the fact that our students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach.”

The second section is, “Essential Capacities for the 21st Century”. We linked this to a curriculum framework where the main categories are Analytical and  Creative Thinking  and Problem-solving; Complex Communication —Oral and Written; Leadership and Teamwork; Digital and Quantitative Literacy; Global Perspective; Adaptability, Initiative,  and Risk-Taking; Integrity and Ethical  Decision-Making. There are many frameworks out there that describe what students should know and be able to do. This is just one that provides food for thought.

I love the third section and think that it is the core of the guide because it provides schools with a variety of models and resources for change. It’s great that they start the chapter off by saying:

“The intention is not to provide a formulaic approach to the challenges of teaching and learning in our times but rather to encourage exploration, innovation, and transformation within each school in a manner that is consistent with the school’s mission and the needs of its students.”

One can spend hours in this section exploring the ideas and the links to resources from a wide variety of school and teachers. The Stories of Excellence guide has examples of classroom units where technology is used (unfortunately, It looks like they have blocked it to non-members).  This is one resource that is teaching and learning with technology focused.

The authors identified the following unifying themes:

  • The schools are academically demanding
  • Project-based learning, as an integral part of the school’s program, is woven throughout all grade levels and disciplines
  • Classrooms extend beyond the school walls, actively engaging students in the world around them
  • Digital technologies and a global perspective infuse all aspects of the curriculum
  • Vibrant arts programs help promote creativity, self-expression, self-discipline, and fexibility
  • The adults are actively engaged with one another and with the students in a process of continuous learning
  • A culture of engagement and support invites participation, innovation, and a “growth mindset” on the part of teachers and students
  • Transformational leadership challenges the status quo, draws out the issues, navigates through confict, and mobilizes people and resources to do the adaptive work necessary to create and sustain effective change.

Finally, the appendix has additional resources to use in your planning.

If you haven’t studied this guide, you’re missing out. It’s a must in my book.