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Nov 03, 2017
Dear 2013 Me,
I know you are very prepared and working hard to make everything perfect. But a lot has changed over the past four years, and I wanted to write you this letter to share advice on topics that you may not have thought of.
What You Will Do in the Next Few Years
You will see your school district in Milton Wisconsin, a district of 3,500 students and 400 employees, go to 1:1 instruction. In 2013, your district will make a commitment to overhaul its technology infrastructure to prepare for 1:1. In December of 2013 you will sign a lease agreement with Apple ensuring every child in your district, kindergarten through grade 12, has a personal device. By August of 2014, you will have distributed 2,500 iPads to grades kindergarten through grade 8 and 1,000 laptops to your high schoolers grades 9 through 12. In addition, grades 4 through 12 will be able to take their devices home. What happens next? Well, let's just say you were not able to predict everything.
Cats Love Cords
Every technology leader I have ever talked to who is involved in planning for a 1:1 initiative braces for a potential tsunami of broken equipment and a sustainability nightmare. We all scrambled to create student helpdesk/repair programs so that we could keep our heads above water as the repair tides rolled in. But students were far more responsible than expected; however, if I have one word of advice, remind students to keep charging cords free of pets. Cats, puppies, and even baby brothers like to chew on charging cords.
Advice: have students issued one device to create ownership and put out warnings about pets.
Students Are Amazing
Student empowerment in any district will lead to incredible results. Modern students are knowledge seekers and problem solvers. When we entrust a student with the very tool they desire to seek and solve, they reward us with engagement and collaborations in the learning experience. This is not to say that students cannot be empowered without a 1:1 program but when teacher and student operate on the same platform, it creates a natural venue for partnerships.
Advice: have students at the discussion table because you are going to be impressed with what they bring to the program. Utilize the momentum the 1:1 programs give students and listen to what they have to say.
Everything Will Be Better
This is a difficult topic. Having a 1:1 program in your district ensures you of one thing: new challenges may not be instant victories. Improvement is due to educational experiences and testing. The same device that helps bridge the digital equity gap and keeps the classroom doors open 24/7 can be the cause of classroom distractions as students wrestle with the choice of paying attention to the teacher or watching funny cat videos on YouTube.
Advice: remember that technology will never replace a good teacher. Be sure to support your teachers and help them be amazing; embrace the many great things that are 1:1. Stay calm and true to your vision when you hit unexpected challenges.
Technology Is Not a Police Force
This is an important aspect of a 1:1 program. The daily request will be “please block (insert program) for just this one child.” The good news is, you have the ability to provide this service; the bad news is, you have the ability to provide this service. Staff and administration will come to you and ask you to create custom technical solutions to solve behavior problems. Be mindful not to create more work than you can sustain. Remind staff that if a student cannot handle the responsibility of using technology, that there are always other options.
Advice: never make technology the only choice. There are times and places where traditional learning tools are more appropriate.
Social Media is Not the Devil
Do you block social media or let students have access? This problem keeps many a technology leader up at night, regardless of which side of the fence you are on. Each student that has their personal device provided by the school district only complicates this issue. Throw in the fact that many districts use some form of social media as a communication tool and you have yourself a first class conundrum.
Advice: *Please hum America the Beautiful in your head while your read this next portion.* We have an obligation to our twenty-first century learners to help them navigate a world that we don't fully understand, a world that is ever changing, a world that we did not grow up in. Social media is but one small portion of that world. Let us not block and hide from our responsibility. Let us embrace the challenge and remind ourselves that the World Wide Web is not going away, and it not only exists beyond the walls of our schools, but it is more than likely sitting in every student's pocket. The social media hill is indeed steep and has an ever-changing landscape. Our role as educators is to help create well adjusted people who can succeed in the world. Social media is part of that world, therefore it is part of our role.
Boldly Go Where No One Has Gone Before
My last piece of advice to you is to remind yourself each day that you are blessed to live in a time where true change is happening. The Internet will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the greatest advancements in human history. Applying this ever-evolving game changer to education is like building an airplane while up in the air. The task is difficult and there are very few guarantees for success. But what a great time to be alive, and what a great challenge to undertake.
Advice: have a vision when you are starting out and trust that vision! Let me leave you with these words of wisdom and insight from Kermit the Frog:
Have what Jim Henson liked to call “ridiculous optimism.” Without it, we wouldn't have this amazing world we live in.
Looking forward to our next communication,
2017 Ed Snow