October 20, 2014

For 1:1, Content Is Key | Next Big Thing

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Harris-Christopher_Contrib200x200pixBack in January, I wrote that 2014 would be the year of 1:1. Little did I know the extent to which this would become true in my rural region. Seven of the districts that I serve are implementing some level of 1:1 for 2014-15. The districts are all quite small—from just under 500 students to about 1,500—which can both help and hinder deployment.

The variety of models and hardware purchased will provide a real-world lab for exploring what works for school tech. Most of the districts are using Chromebooks, but two are going with Android tablets (LearnPads and Kenna tablets from TeacherTube), and one is considering either Microsoft Surface tablets or Windows netbooks. The smallest district is going full 1:1, while some others are looking to implement for grades 3–12.

My role is to facilitate a successful adoption throughout the region. One might think that as a former tech coordinator, I’d focus on professional development (PD). That will be a critical part of deployment, but the most important element is content.

Teaching teachers how to use technology works…but only for a while. If they don’t have material or killer apps that keep them using the technology, even the best PD won’t matter. Curricular content and related apps that meet instructional needs will make new technology stick.

The great news is that our libraries are well placed to deliver content. As I noted in an earlier column, we’ve been buying digital content and ebooks for classroom use for quite a while. For some, buying content without 1:1 devices seemed like putting the cart before the horse. But waiting around for a horse doesn’t get anything started. Build a cart, and you’re all set for a horse, a person, or a device to start pulling. The content and apps are the cart. Even if we can’t pull the cart quite yet, at least we’re making progress while getting up to speed on 1:1.

In our region, we’re also looking for more instructional resources that we can deliver through the library and library learning portals. Enough with the journal articles: we need real content designed for classroom teaching. I mean material such as Rosen’s PowerKnowledge and Core Concepts packages for science, ABC-CLIO resources for high school social studies, and Capstone’s expanding PebbleGo products for younger learners. Teachers can understand and implement these tools on new 1:1 hardware. These are sticky products that will ideally encourage daily use of Chromebooks and tablets.

The other key is to acquire quality apps. These tools have to both solve a problem and feel easy enough to use in order to allow for a smooth transition. For English teachers, that might mean a research support tool like NoodleTools or EasyBib. Or the new editing tool, Poetica, which integrates with Google Docs and makes beautiful use of standard correcting marks.

This is the time to share and build together. If 1:1 is coming to a third of my small, rural districts, it’s only a matter of time until it arrives in yours. Whether through BYOD or another hybrid adoption, we need to be ready to support the new hardware. Yes, we must be the source for PD as well, but the classroom content is what will make 1:1 truly work as the next big thing. What other apps would you recommend?

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Christopher Harris About Christopher Harris

Christopher Harris (infomancy@gmail.com) is coordinator of the school library system of the Genesee Valley (NY) Educational Partnership.

Comments

  1. Susan Grigsby says:

    Having just landed in a relatively small district that is in its 3rd year of BYOT it is refreshing to see the point made about content. I feel that we are very close to saturation with technology and tools and now we find ourselves with an opportunity to talk about content and resources, the role of the librarian in this environment, and the difference between teaching tools and facilitating learning. I can’t wait to hear more about your roll-out and how it’s going!

  2. Ryan Johnson says:

    “Only a matter of time” might be a bit disingenuous. Does anyone really think 1:1 will occur for all our children?

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