Putting All the Pieces Together, Part One

A robust one-to-one initiative starts with a vision. Here are three key elements for building that mission.

As I speak with many of you around the country about our district's one-to-one initiative, I’m often asked: “How did you put it all together and make it work successfully?” Although every district is different and has unique challenges, I think there are a few building blocks that we all have in common. I’ll share with you in this multi-part series how we moved from “Good to Great” in baby steps. Let’s start with vision, the basic building block of any educational initiative. Here are three key elements of building a vision:

#1: Involve all stakeholders

It’s important to have a broad base of support from all stakeholders in the visioning process. Community and business members, parents, school board members, administrators, teachers, students, classified staff and other significant local groups.The old Chinese saying: ''The leader's job is done when the people say 'we did it ourselves'' is very true. Everyone wants to be part of important processes and this builds a support base along the journey. When there are “hiccups” or roadblocks along the way, and there will be, everyone is invested in finding answers.

#2: Ask essential questions

One of the early statements made by our visioning group was “We don’t know what we don’t know: Take the time to look at best practices of others that have traveled the path. We gained so much from visiting others across the country who already went down a successful path. Examples of the sorts of questions you might be asking:

  • Where are we now, today? (Assess the true unfiltered state of learning, technology and instruction in the district. This may take some effort to put together a true picture.)
  • What is the vision of the classroom at future benchmark time frames?
  • What do we want students, teachers, and administrators, etc. to know and do?

It’s not the device, it’s the instruction the device supports. We developed a model to filter these questions that includes curriculum, professional development, support and evaluation.

This process takes some professional development for all stakeholders, possibly visiting exceptional schools, videos of successful classrooms and in general exploring the possibilities. Organizations such as NSBA, ISTE, K-12 Blueprint and Technology & Learning are some examples of places to start.

#3: Plan for Sustainable Funding

In an era of shrinking financial resources, it is not only important to be able to fund initial projects but to look at the true cost of sustainability over a course of years. For example, in a 1-1 program, what happens 4 years from now when devices need to be refreshed?  How do you handle damage and or lost devises each year? Have you funded sustainable and ongoing professional development for all staff?

One of the many strategies we used was to restructure teacher time to provide 30 minutes of professional development each day. I will address this in more detail in another post.

Do you have enough technical staff to support devices and teachers? If devices are not dependable or the network is down, all the technology in the world won’t help in the classroom. Teachers must rely on the technology to work reliably or they will not use it.

In a session with a large group of superintendents, I was asked, “I can buy all the computers but I can’t buy the staff -- what can I do?”  We had a group discussion on strategies for buying fewer “things” and more people. Whatever technology you have must work and teachers must have confidence in its reliability and you need a competent and accessible support staff to make this happen. This may look different in each district, but the concept is the same.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Putting the Pieces Together.


Mike Watson is an educator of 34 years and is a leading force in educational change. He is Chief Information Officer for Tippecanoe School District in Lafayette, IN where he focuses on cultural and instructional change in learning and leading with technology. The Tippecanoe 1-1 initiative has been nationally recognized for its sound instructional emphasis and cultural change. Mike’s TEIM Model (Technology Enhanced Instructional Model) used extensively by teachers was recognized by the National School Boards Association in their Technology Salute District Award. He presents regularly at state and national conferences and his honors include the “Intel Outstanding Innovator”, the National School Board Association “Technology Salute District”, and the “Meritorious Hoosier Award”.

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