Over the last three months, I’ve been on a wild ride learning about one-to-one computing initiatives around the country.  My district is in an exploration phase, and this explorer has seen a lot in the last two months.

I want to give special thanks to the neighboring school districts who have allowed us into their classrooms and shared a wealth of information.  A team from my district visited Gilbert High School in Lexington School District One (Lexington, SC) to see one-to-one computing in action.  The district has a long term plan for expansion of the one-to-one program and started with Gilbert as the pilot school.  I was impressed with the engagement of the students and the willingness of the teachers to transform their teaching.  We saw students in collaborative groups with the teacher as facilitator.

We also had the opportunity of visiting Busbee Creative Arts Academy (grades 6-8) and Davis Elementary in Lexington School District Two.  The students at Busbee use iPod Touches and the students in grades 4-5 at Davis are using iPads.  I came away from the visits with a firm belief that student achievement and discipline is improved when students are engaged in meaningful activities with the technology tools that are made available to them.

Through sleet and snow, I made my way to Pascack Valley Regional High School District in Montvale, NJ for an NSBA site visit.  Pascack Valley and Pascack Hills High Schools have been implementing one-to-one for seven years.  The depth of instruction was evident as we observed classrooms throughout the two day visit.  I met wonderful students and had great discussions with the Pascack students and teachers about how one-to-one computing has transformed their learning environments.

Finally, a large team from my district visited Lee County School District in Sanford, NC.  The district Information Technology and Curriculum departments worked closely together in the development of their one-to-one initiative which started with middle schools and has expanded to the high schools and elementary schools.  The lesson I took away is that teamwork is essential in a successful implementation.

Several of our committee members also visited Henrico County in Virginia and came away with a comprehensive understanding of the planning that is involved with providing one-to-one computing to all students.

So, where do we go from here?  We’ll keep reading, keep exploring, keep learning, and start to plan the next steps.  We have several groups of teachers in our district who have been teaching in one-to-one computing classrooms, and we are grateful to have them on the implementation team.  Above all, we have students who are giving us input into what they want to see happen in their classrooms.  We are all amazed at the insight that our students have brought to the discussion.

What I’ve learned from this exploration phase is that it isn’t about the device but about the learning goals.  The technology isn’t going to transform a classroom unless the leaders in the district provide teachers with the time and support to create engaging work for students.  Students are digital natives, and we need to step into their world and let them be our guides.

More to come as this journey continues.

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