Leading From Experience

In Leading a Culture of Change, author Michael Fullan reminds us that change is a process, not an event. While the original goals of the one-to-one laptop initiative in our school district were stated with a global vision for student learning, community feedback helped us narrow our focus and guide our work.

We initiated the project under the premise of preparing all students for success in the changing world in which they will live, work and compete. The initial goals included:

  • Level the playing field by ensuring all students have the same computer with the same software;
  • Prepare students for success in higher education and the workplace;
  • Prepare students for success in a world that will require them to communicate effectively in a global society;
  • Promote literacy by providing access to resources and creative means to compose, integrate quotes and data, and transmit original works;
  • Provide teachers with a variety of tools to better differentiate instruction, to teach to different learning levels and styles and to develop student-centered learning environments in their classrooms; and
  • Engage, motivate and empower student learners.

Mid-Stream Changes
Two years into the project, we continue to support these initial goals, yet our experiences have helped us refine them in several areas.

In talking about improving student achievement, our conversations consistently circled back to literacy, and that became our focus for the evaluation plan.

We also changed the way we collected and evaluated data. We held small group meetings with teachers to solicit their feedback. Classroom observations of technology integration were clearly separated from contractual observations. Staff members conducted focus forums for teachers, parents and students and analyzed student work. We were more diligent in sharing the results of our evaluations.

Lastly we increased the types and levels of support to our staff, differentiating content and scheduling to meet their individual needs. Staff development sessions that focused on literacy, integrating technology and technology skills were offered during the summer, after school and during the school day. We added teacher resources to the district website.

The goals for the second year of the laptop initiative are more focused:

  • Improve student achievement in reading, writing, listening, speaking, viewing and thinking using technology as a major support to the instructional program at the middle school level.
  • Improve student performance on tasks requiring the use of higher-order thinking skills.
  • Move from primarily teacher-directed instruction to instruction that reflects shared responsibility and interconnectedness among skills and subject areas.

Because change is a process, it will take time to fully realize the potential of the one-to-one laptop project and its impact on student learning. We are confident that, in the end, we will all have grown from the experience.