What does it take to survive and thrive in a 1:1 classroom? Prior to my current role, I was a classroom teacher navigating my way through my division’s 1:1 iPad Pilot Initiative. I spent two years immersed in a 1:1 classroom environment working with both 3rd and 4th grade students. During that time, my colleagues and I experienced some of the pains of adopting new technology solutions in our combined efforts to bring deeper learning to students.
If you have ever had to manually update hundreds of devices, search for hours in the shared with me section of Google Drive, or totally revamp a lesson because a website or app wasn’t working, then you have felt the growing pains of adopting new tools. Anything new can be difficult, scary, or overwhelming, but if you shift your mindset to find ways that technology can make you more efficient and open up new doors of opportunities for your students, those fears and frustrations will subside.
As I started exploring ways that I could use technology to enhance students’ learning experiences, I quickly learned I was going to have to move past only thinking about efficiency. I realized that the potential impact these new resources of mobile devices, apps, and services provided me and my students would require going back to the drawing board. My lessons needed a re-design!
Our professional development at the time of this transition to 1:1 wasn’t only focused on how to use the new iPads or apps. We also explored as a team the meaning behind deeper learning, and what it would take to expose students to those types of learning experiences. We were tasked with re-thinking about the student perspective. What could their own interests add to our lessons? Were we allowing for extra time to explore things beyond the Standards of Learning? And how did our role get easier as the facilitator of learning when technology could help us better assess and monitor student progress?
While I had learned about SAMR and how technology would offer the greatest benefit through lesson re-design, it was critical that my building principal understood that change was part of the new program. Luckily for me and my colleagues, she supported us with an an innovative mindset through this transition. We were encouraged to try new things, to learn from our students’ experiences using new resources, and to slowly integrate new apps to open up new possibilities and modalities of learning. As much as my students were learning that first year, so was I! Having the support to try new ideas, or to totally revamp what already had worked well, was an important lesson that sticks with me today.
In my role as a coach, I continue to reflect on that experience when helping other teachers revamp lessons and methods, and design for student-centered learning. I have to ask challenging questions and push teachers to rethink their design. Having been through this experience myself, I know that this shift in thinking takes time. However, without the help and support of invested leaders and coaches, designing for student success can be a difficult and arduous process.
Even with great support, understanding how the use of technology can transform and deepen students’ learning experiences can be difficult for a teacher to implement, especially when nothing else is slowing down. Through my experience working with teachers, I see great success in continuous and relevant professional development, modeling, and embedded coaching and teaching. Providing this level of support gives teachers the space and resources needed for a shift in mindset.
Looking back on that first year within a 1:1 program, I didn’t have all the answers. (I still don’t have all the answers.) Yet I believe I was successful during the transition because I had a positive mindset focused on preparing students for an ever changing global society. I quickly learned during that first year of my 1:1 experience that when you shift your mindset as a teacher and give students more opportunities to explore content more deeply, they will exceed your expectations every time!
If you want to learn more about my continued journey towards innovation and deeper learning follow me on Twitter @Mrs_Demas or check out my blog (http://kdemas.goochlandschools.org/).
Written by Krystle Demas, an Instructional Technology Coach for Randolph and Goochland Elementary Schools. She also serves as co-Mentor Coordinator for Goochland County Public Schools.
Formerly Krystle was an upper elementary classroom teacher and was a member of the Goochland Curriculum & Innovation Team.