Lately I've had the great pleasure of visiting schools in Australia for NSW Australia and the Digital Education Revolution team, and giving a keynote and workshops for leaders there. I also worked with a team from Educational Collaborators conducting focus groups at seven rural school districts in Iowa considering 1-to-1.
As I visited schools and spoke with teachers and principals it was apparent that culture is vitally important to 1-to-1 and will be a prime factor in how 1-to-1 plays out. Here's a salient quote on school culture:
The concept of culture refers to a group’s shared beliefs, customs, and behavior. A school’s culture includes the obvious elements of schedules, curriculum, demographics, and policies, as well as the social interactions that occur within those structures and give a school its look and feel as “friendly,” “elite,” “competitive,” “inclusive,” and so on. - http://www.smallschoolsproject.org/PDFS/culture.pdf
Every school or district program I've studied or visited was informed in some way by the school culture. The first program I studied and where I also ran the program, The Peck School, initially went 1-to-1 because of the need to ensure students finished their homework and had home-to-school connectivity - high achievement was a driving factor. That morphed into a laptop program integrated throughout all the subjects. Some of the schools I visited in the past year had strong athletic programs so ensuring that work was done even when traveling to games was important.
At a wonderful school in Australia, the Beverly Hills Intensive English Centre used laptops, flip cameras, SmartBoards and Wikis to enhance and further English language learning and proficiency with their students to the point of comfort and even student advocacy in their new language. This is an amazing educational story which I hope gets told far and wide - a story where technology takes the learning to a deeper and richer level - without being "about the techology". Yet it's all about the culture - the beliefs, the expectations, the goals, the norms, the purpose, and the intent of that school. I met highly committed and dedicated teachers and administrators there deeply concerned about their students and their mission.
Yet another example discussed in my book is The Urban School of San Francisco which is a highly student-centered environment. Laptops just furthered their progressive approach - but also allowed the creation of Telling Stories whereby students initially interviewed Holocaust survivors - and have since expanded to those involved in the Civil Rights movement and others involved in important elements in U.S. History. Obviously the culture at Urban School believes in learning outside of the four walls of the classroom and encourages innovation and student hands-on learning.
Schools that take temperature of their school culture are more informed on how 1-to-1 might unfold in your environment. This can involve focus groups, interviews, surveys and other methods. Your "Vision Committee" will want to ensure that the thinking of all your stakeholders (teachers, administrators, parents, and don't forget students) is brought into the mix so what is unique and important to your school is at the forefront of your plan.
-- Pamela Livingston