Beyond Classroom Tech Tips…

November 21, 2010

Teacher Netbook Roll Out

Filed under: One-to-One — Donna DesRoches @ 8:48 pm

This past week was an unusually busy week with our division-wide technology bootcamp taking place on Tuesday and the delivery of the teacher netbooks to the schools that will be participating in our one-to-one program next year.  This year is learning year for our teachers and a year to determine the procedures that will guide student use of the netbooks in the following year.

As well as delivering the netbooks I provided a one  hour workshop tailored to the needs of the each staff.  I had met with each school previously and we talked about how their learning would focus on two strands: social media and what they would like to communicate to students, parents and their community about the one-to-one program.  The intent of this first inservice was to explore the netbook  itself, to use some social media tools and to begin some preliminary thinking about articulating a vision for one-to-one in their school.

This was more successful in some schools than others.  The internet was down when the inservice for the North Battleford Comprehensive High School began thus limiting the use of the social media tools I had planned.  We did focus on some of the productivity tools on the netbook but the building of a collaborative document of questions, concerns, and aha moments on a google spreadsheet was limited as the internet came up as the time alloted for the workshop came to a close.  Ah well, the next day the principal did thank me for the workshop and told me that staff are quite excited about the venture.

I was delighted with the participation of the teachers a Spiritwood High School as I followed a discussion about student behavior and expectations with one of our division counsellors.  It was a long day for the teachers but they joined in the discussions, added to the spreadsheet and began to consider a vision for the one-to-one initiative that they could articulate to their student, parent and school community.

I was scheduled to speak at Luseland School at 1:40 and had hoped to make it to Major School by 3:05. Considering that this was at least a 30 minute drive across grid roads I may have been a bit over optimistic!  Luseland teachers also engaged in the conversations and the learning focusing on the big ideas and questions about implementation.  I was late leaving for Major School and unfortunately took a wrong turn leaving the community and did not make it Major School until almost 5:00.  Teachers were still in the school for Parent-Teacher interviews so I was able to deliver the netbooks. Over supper the teachers opened their netbooks and explored and experimented asking many questions. I enjoyed our conversation and look forward to working with them in January when they will spend a full day in school-based technology-based boot camp.

The highlight of the week was a return to Luseland School to watch the iSITS teacher, Micheal Hagel, take his staff through their technology boot camp.  Teachers were totally engaged in their learning – experimenting, exploring, questioning.  While their boot camp agenda explored many different tools what impressed me most was the focus on teacher learning via blogs and rss feeds.  Michael expressed how important these tools were to his professional learning and encouraged and helped teachers build their personal reading lists – create their own learning networks.

I am also pleased that many of the teachers in our one-to-one program have joined our division Yammer network.  We are beginning to create a strong community of learners willing to share their learning, their classroom activities, ask questions and respond to the questions asked by their colleagues.

The support of the iSITS (in-School Instructional Technology Support) teachers will be instrumental in the success of our one-to-one initiative.  Micheal’s leadership in the implementation and delivery of the Luseland Boot Camp enables a solid beginning for his teachers.   Mavis Hoffman’s leadership has encouraged teachers to experiment with a wide variety of technology and media.  One teacher thrilled parents with Audacity-made recordings of their children reading; another is using Google Sketch-up with her students to plan a playground; and all of Major teachers are using Yammer to share and communicate.  At NBCHS Rob Wall has re-instituted Techie Tuesdays and he Yammers, Twitters and blogs about their one-to-one experience.  Ryan Hackl at Spiritwood has his teachers using Chatterous for intra-school of communication and continues to encourage their use of Yammer and a wide variety of social media tools.

I know that we are going to have issues with our one-to-one initiative.  However, after this week of working with teachers, of observing them with the netbooks, and their eagerness to use the them with their students the issues will not be about teacher fear or hesitation about learning.  The biggest issue will be lack of bandwidth. So please, please, Saskatchewan Ministry of Education – hear this plea….either provide us with more bandwidth or allow school divisions to purchase more – allow us to use the tools that will facilitate learning in the 21st Century!

Next… On Monday we launch our teacher iPad initiative at Connaught Community School.  Stay tuned!


October 11, 2010

Exploring the Possibility of an iPad One-to-One Project

Filed under: One-to-One — Donna DesRoches @ 4:32 pm

In my last post I wrote about the five schools in our division that have been selected via an application process to participate in a one-to-one project using netbooks. The first year involves providing all teachers with a netbook and a learning program to explore the technology, the learning and the management of a one-to-one program.  The following year students would be issued with netbooks in a configuration (one-to-one; two-to-one, grade-based, etc.) determined by their teachers.

When I met with the administration of Connaught Community School, they tentatively broached the idea of considering iPads as their one-to-one project.


16 iPads: Part 1 from Kominyetska


I took their idea back to the Director of Education and the division’s IT Manager who agreed that this would be an idea worth exploring.  We all agreed however, that the teachers needed to have a clear understanding of the pros and cons of such a venture prior to purchasing the iPads.  We needed to know that they understood that the iPad is very much an unknown and that they were prepared to handle the uncertainties over the course of the year.

I informed the principal and we set up a time for me to meet with the staff.  I took my iPad and passed it around and when the teachers were informed that this was indeed a possibility there was both a sense of excitement and trepidation in the room.

I explained to the teachers that while the division was willing to support an iPad project in their school we needed to know that they understood the pros and cons.  I asked each teacher to research the use of the iPad in the context of their grades and specialties and to provide their administrator with what they had learned.  If, when the research had been completed, the school still wanted iPads as their mobile device for the one-to-one project we would proceed with the purchasing.

About a week later the administrators, the schools key technology teachers, and I met.  The principal had talked with each teacher and had recorded his or her pros and cons. They were excited by the possibilities offered by the mobility of the device, the long battery life, the number and varieties of apps that would facilitate differentiated learning, and the e-book possibilities offered by the device.

Issues such as the cost of and the management of downloading of apps, no access to well-used, educational flash games, monitoring of student use, impact on bandwidth and using a first-generation product were major concerns expressed by the teachers.  They acknowledged that many of their questions and concerns could not be answered until they used the devices and so informed me that they, as a staff, were ready to proceed with year one of an  iPad one-to-one  project.

The iPad have been ordered for the 14 teachers and we all eagerly await the learning that will follow.


September 25, 2010

One-to-one Netbook Program

Filed under: One-to-One,Professional Development — Donna DesRoches @ 9:16 pm

This fall Living Sky School Division, a collection of schools in rural Saskatchewan, embarked on the first steps of a one-to-one initiative.  In June schools were invited to submit a proposal for participation in a year of teacher training to prepare for one-to-one the following year.  Eleven schools submitted a proposal and five schools were accepted.  The selection was based on a cross section of the school division (rural, urban, small, large, high school, elementary, PreK-12 and the quality of their statement of intent, which had to include:

  1. A statement of why the school wishes to participate in the program.  This could include the school’s philosophical statement about technology and learning and/or how one-to-one has the potential to advance student learning.
  2. An outline of a suggested training schedule (after-school, lunch hour, etc – limited release time will be available for small group or individual work)
  3. An expression of understanding of how technology use involves incorporating division initiatives such as UbD, Differentiated Instruction and Assessment.
  4. A demonstrated commitment by ALL staff to participate fully in the training program
    1. Attendance at workshop and other training sessions
    2. Completion of learning tasks
    3. Sharing knowledge and insights
    4. Participation in the creation of the manual to be used in the implementation of one-to-one in the school
  5. A statement that indicates an understanding that the school or the school division may choose to terminate the training program at anytime.

Each teacher in the five schools that have been selected, Major, NBCHS, Spiritwood High School, Connaught Community School, and Luseland School will receive a netbook, and copy of the book, 1-To-1 Learning: Laptop Programs that Work.

I will be responsible for guiding and facilitating the professional learning program and so far have had conversations with two school staffs about what the learning will look like.  Division initiatives are of primary importances – especially our focus on Differentiated Instruction – as are school goals.  During our initial conversations I talked about social media, personal learning networks and how I would like them to personalize the learning as much as possible.  The learning will evolve around the use of social media to facilitate connection, conversation and collaboration.

We are also undertaking a simplified form of action research to document our progress and to reflect on our learning.  Teachers have been asked to create a question, to take some action based on the question and to document their learning.

The netbooks should be here within the month and we will begin our learning journey.  This journey will look different in each school and may lead to a variety of decisions made at the end.  A staff may decide that they do not want student one-to-one; they may decide that it is more appropriate in certain grades, or they might want a two-to-one or three-to-one ratio at the end of the year.  It is the school’s decision – but it will be made based on hands-on knowledge, research and learning.

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