1:1 in Lynnwood, WA, Improves Collaboration, Engagement, and Equity

Ellen Ullman

For years, the teachers at Edmonds School District in Lynnwood, Washington, signed up to borrow laptop carts. For secondary teachers, in particular, this wasn’t an ideal option because they could often get the cards for only two of their five sections. Since nearly 20 percent of the students in the district did not have access to a computer with Internet access at home, something better had to be done. The solution: a 1:1 program.

Getting Started with Pilots

Because Edmonds is a Google Apps for Education district, Chromebooks made a lot of sense. They were also an affordable way to move from carts to one-to-one.

The district began by launching Chromebook pilots in one middle school and one elementary school. This year, the pilot program expanded to all four middle schools, the upper grades in two K-8 schools, and grades 3-6 in an additional elementary school. Thanks to a tech levy and lots of local support, the district plans to go 1:1 for all students in grades 3-12 over the next two to three years.

But Edmonds knows that success is not about the device—it’s about the curriculum integration. Two years ago, the secondary instruction team began working on curricular adoption and figuring out how that would leverage a 1:1 program. “As we go 1:1, many of our teachers can tap into an online curriculum,” says Kim Mathey, manager of libraries and instructional technology. “We have four instructional coaches dedicated to the middle schools to help teachers get on board.”

All Teams Work Together

“One reason the 1:1 has been so successful is this atmosphere that we’re all learning and experimenting, and that risk-taking is necessary,” says Sarah Schumacher, manager of secondary education. That mindset was driven home during summer institutes for teachers and continues today as middle school principals model risk-taking. “We’re showing teachers that it’s important to try; if there’s a failure, we’ll learn from that,” says Schumacher.

Another reason for success is that the district teams work together. Mathey’s team of instructional technology coaches is part of the Student Learning Department and works very closely with the technology department. From the minute the technology and instructional teams started exploring the costs of going 1:1, they met with Schumacher to see what a 1:1 initiative would do for instruction and students.

“Instructional technology has been part of student learning for a long time. We have a strong foundation of working together pre 1:1,” says Schumacher. “From the beginning, we were able to frame the 1:1 around improving instruction and supporting student learning.”

1:1 Teachers Are More Collaborative and Innovative

One of the unanticipated benefits of the 1:1 was an increase in teacher collaboration. “With a cart, you couldn’t collaborate, but now we’re seeing an expansion of our PLCs,” says Schumacher. “Teachers are working through this together and modeling for each other. Some of them use common planning time to collaborate and others are starting to use Google Hangouts to collaborate between buildings.”

Innovation has increased dramatically, too. Schumacher describes a PE department that, for a unit on bullying, used AnswerGarden, a polling app, to let students answer questions. “Because they were able to answer anonymously, the conversation was much more authentic.” That same PE department is also working on flipping their classes by having students watch videos of, for example, volleyball techniques at home so they can start playing the next day.

“Being 1:1 has had a huge effect on how teachers teach,” says Gavin Lees, instructional technology coordinator. “Before, it was difficult to access online resources and engage with technology. Now that we all share the same technology and use the same platform and programs, the teacher doesn’t have to be an expert. Teachers who were reluctant are starting to use technology more.”

Lees says teachers are using Google Forms for assessment and have embraced Google Docs. In January, he showed one middle school teacher how to use Kahoot for formative assessment. Three weeks later, every teacher at that middle school was using it. Soon after, the students started making their own Kahoots.

Why Chromebooks?

Edmonds first became aware of Chromebooks in 2012, when a teacher received a grant for some and needed a domain. “Chromebooks were an unknown but we saw value in what the teacher could do with her Chromebooks in comparison to what teachers could do in other classes,” says Chris Bailey, manager of IT operations. That, plus the cost, speed, and ease of use of Chromebooks, made them extremely appealing when it was time to go 1:1.

In 2013, the district purchased approximately 1,000 Lenovo X131E Chromebooks to support online testing. “We put them in classrooms and started to see the instructional benefits. The schools didn’t want to give them up,” says Bailey.

Edmonds chose Lenovo because they were already a Lenovo customer and knew the Chromebooks would be robust, says Bailey. “We heard about other Chromebook users in our region that were spending a little less on non-Lenovo models and seeing significant hardware issues, such as power adaptors breaking, and we wanted to avoid that.”

Today, Edmonds has around 14,000 Chromebooks. Most are from Lenovo, but some are from CTL, a similar Chromebook that also has an Intel chip.

Bailey adds, “We’ve used white glove service, which means the Chromebooks arrive with asset tags and stickers on them. It’s so much easier than unboxing, imaging, and deploying. We’ve needed no new staff members to handle the Chromebooks.”

Next Steps

Lees says the 1:1 program has transformed the way the district handles professional development. They used to run PD sessions where teachers came in and looked at new tech tools and then a group of about 20 would get to play with the tools. “It wasn’t effective,” he says.

Now, the district is using a train-the-trainer model. They chose a core group from the 1:1 schools and brought them in for two days of training. That group is now spreading the knowledge and connecting people in their schools who need to learn with people who can teach. “We are growing PD from within,” he says. 

At A Glance: 

Edmonds School District (WA) serves over 20,000 students who speak more than 100 different languages. Approximately 40 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

Edmonds has 20 elementary schools (K-6), 2 K-8 schools, 4 middle school (7-8), and 5 high schools (9-12).

In 2014-2015, one middle school and one elementary school did 1:1 Chromebook pilots.

In 2015-2016, the pilot program expanded to 4 middle schools, 2 K-8 schools (for grades 7-8), and 2 elementary schools (grades 3-6).

By 2017-2018, Edmonds will be 1:1 with Intel-based Chromebooks for all students in grades 3-12.

Infrastructure: 

The district has made steady investments in infrastructure. As of the middle of the 2014-2015 school year, there is at least one wireless access point in every classroom.

Edmonds currently has approximately 14,000 Chromebooks. Most of them are Lenovo X131Es. Teachers have Lenovo Yoga convertible tablets.

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