Rant #2: 1:1 Issues

I am very fortunate to teach in a 1:1 situation. Our district made five schools 1:1 schools in the fall of 2013, with the attempt to change instruction and learning at our poorest performing schools. Not as a surprise, those schools all follow the same “feeder” path…three elementary schools, all which feed into our middle school, which feeds into the high school (there are seventeen schools in our district, including four middle schools and three high schools).

Observation #1: Our kids quickly forget how fortunate they are to be in a 1:1. It doesn’t take long before they act as if they are entitled to the devices, as if they are their own personal devices, and as if they can do whatever they want on their device at any time. It also isn’t long before you see students misusing or mishandling devices. Then you always get the naysayer students who openly complain about the iPads and say that the school should go back to paper. It doesn’t help that our school is so overwhelmed by other issues that we cannot police the devices more carefully. My bet, however, is that every 1:1 faces this issue. We all begin to take the positive things in our lives for granted.

We do have a few kids whose parents have requested “no iPad” because “the iPad is a distraction,” and we do have a few students who no longer have an iPad because they have broken theirs (usually at least twice) and did not purchase insurance. The parent request IS their perrogative, but with no-iPad students, most are classically disorganized with a binder full of scattered mad-scientist-like papers. And humorously, almost every one of the no-iPad students has a smartphone of some kind, which often find their way out during class time. It is nice to know that the “no-iPad” parents don’t think a smartphone is a distraction.

One other related rant: when a student has no iPad, the teacher is then responsible to make paper copies of everything that is digital for every other student. The teacher is given no extra time or funds to make this happen–but the expectation remains.

Observation #2: Students cannot avoid the distraction of the device (regardless of the device), and if you somehow restrict their device, they will do what they can to circumvent the restriction. There is a false proclamation from educational technologist who say, “If you were more engaging as a teacher, students wouldn’t go off-task on their devices.” This is a complete myth. Human nautre is to go to the most engaging thing at any moment when we are bored. Go to any faculty meeting and watch the teachers on their notebook computers, tablets, or phones. And that principal/administrator is your BOSS. Remembering that helps me keep the right perspective when dealing with off-task students. And trust me…I try to be entertaining (you can’t always be, and some topics ARE boring) and I use every tool to keep kids on task.

We had to block iMessage and AirDrop. Even so, there are hundreds of apps that act as messengers–and when all else fails, students fall back on e-mail which we cannot block. Ah, the joys of modern life.

I attend faculty meetings without my devices. I know what I would be doing.

Also: distractions occured in the past. I have gone through enough music libraries to see what students did to paper music in the past. The artwork and written notes match anything kids with a device could ever do.

Observation #3: You can never have enough money for additional tools, subscriptions, apps, or training. This is the great lie of the Chromebook…buy the $200 Chromebook, and that is your only expense. The truth is that–particularly in the case of the Chromebook–the best services (other than GAFE, which is NOT enough) cost money in the form of an annual subscription. This could mean the cost of Schoology (sorry, Google Classroom users, but Classroom can’t stand up against Schoology, Edmodo, or Showbie), or in the case of music education, a number of services from MusicFirst. In my last post (Rant #1), I talked about how frustrating it is to be in a 1:1 and to not to be able to afford green note/red note apps for my students.

Training needs to be continual. And the more basic the device, the more training is required to make sure that technology integration does not stall out at the “Substitution” level (on the SAMR model).

The reality is: once you have that device, don’t count on any extra money for anything. And if you are a music teacher, good luck receving much professional development in the area of technology that relates to you.

Another educational technologist myth is that “Students never need PD.” That is a statement to make teachers feel guilty for wanting professional development, and it assumes that students know how to use their personal devices for education. They don’t. They know how to use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, and maybe e-mail. If you want them to use a device for education, you are going to need to show them how to use it. If you are lucky you will have a “techy” kid who can teach the other kids–but someone still needs to offer PD to kids, too.

Observation #4: Getting stuck in the rut. We have noticed that the majority of teachers in year two of our 1:1 are no longer requesting apps (partially because of Observation #3), nor are they having students try new apps. There are new apps every day (unless you are on Chromebook and are a music educator–sorry, but it is true…in fact, in my prep for a presentation in Ohio, apps actually disappeared), but teachers are generally using what they are alrady using.

Don’t get me wrong–you can’t keep installing apps, particularly with 16GB iPads. But the sense of exploration that our entire staff had in year one has disappeared. I would like some level of that to continue. There is a small group of “technologists” in our school that bring an “app of the week” to our staff (my apps have been Showbie and Pages [we did not have Pages last year–long story]). On the positive side, my seventh grade students tell me that many of their teachers are now using Showbie. Incidentally, Showbie is a paperless classroom solution that allows students to complete most of their work inside the app, as well as to upload work to it, without the social aspects of Schoolgy (which also has such functionality). Teachers can correct easily in Schoology as well (I will blog about this soon).

Final Thoughts: My other issues with a 1:1 are centered around the specifics of my particular job, where students are required to take music, but if they are not in band or orchestra, they are in choir. The lack of a general music class can make for a very challenging experience in choir. That percentage of students who would rather be in any other class add to the challenges of classroom management in choir, 1:1 or not.

All this said, I do support 1:1 programs. Technology does have the potential to change the learning environment, to help teachers be better teachers, and to help students be better learners. The challenge is making sure that we stay grateful; that students learn to confront their desire to be distracted; that there is enough money for accessories, subscriptions, apps, and training; and that you don’t get stuck in a rut.


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