Tuesday, June 6, 2017

New Devices... New Year: My Reflections as We Start Again

Three years ago we pulled the trigger and went one to one district-wide.  K-2 was equipped with Samsung tablets while 3-12 were issued Dell Chromebooks.

As our lease comes to an end this year and we adopt new devices for this upcoming school year,  I look to reflect.  What went well?  What do we need to do differently? While for each school this might vary drastically, for me, there are a few things that I wish we would have started sooner or that we start now.

First and foremost, our breakage rate was offensive our first year.  I mean, truly terrible.  It was the year before I went into the tech coach position and at that point I was still teaching in the secondary English classroom, but even I knew it was bad.  We had multiple students with four or more screen breaks in a single year and there were no consequences.  I know; this sounds crazy, but I guess looking back, we needed to spend time coming up with better device policies and making sure all students, staff, and parents were on the same page when it came to that policy.

We needed to press upon all stakeholders that these devices are meant to help in the learning process, but they have to take care of them.

Finally partway through our second year with devices and my first year in this position, we FINALLY started charging students for the repair costs associated with their devices, but only in the case of physical damage or screen breaks.  Even more, we still covered the first break as an "accidents happen" policy.  And while this helped, we ended up investing in better cases and charging for the repair on the first break starting at the beginning of the third year.

To be honest, this is still something we have to work on.  If teachers, parents, and other stakeholders don't hold students accountable for how they are treating the device, we are going to get caught in the same vicious cycle.  Just like it is hard to take back control of a classroom once classroom management has been lost, it is equally difficult to magically snap your fingers and expect students to treat their devices with value and respect if EVERYONE hasn't been expecting it previously.  

Beyond the devices and breakage, we have also experienced a high volume of student bills being processed on chargers.  Students were swapping chargers and losing chargers faster than I could possibly keep up.  Students were charged for lost or damaged chargers; however, I spent two weeks attempting to match up chargers as students turned in the wrong one at the end of the year.  This year we found GREAT success by implementing 2 simple new policies.

1. All chargers were clearly labeled with student name and device ID number.  So even if a student brought it to school, even though they are told to leave them at home, students could easily see which one was theirs if multiple were plugged in.
2. NO LOANER CHARGERS.  Best decision I ever made.  I was spending way too much time trying to track down chargers and frankly, it wasn't worth it and ultimately contributed greatly to our charger chaos at the end of the year.  Instead, each teacher was given one loaner charger with their name labeled on hot pink duct tape.  Yes, obnoxious, but effective.  We are even ordering in extra chargers for our new devices to start the school year with this same policy.

Finally, training.

We have tried a number of different professional development models: rotating subs during the school day, differentiated PD, and after school trainings.  However, the most effective training has always been when we provide both choice and time for our teachers.

This year, we set up training days where students completed their work digitally from home while teachers were in trainings all day, an option provided by the Indiana Department of Education.

Each teacher selected 2 main sessions they wanted to attend each day out of the 6 options: 1 hour of training or instruction by a tech leader and 1 hour of time dedicated to the teachers physically creating something that they could use in their classroom.  At the end of the 2 hour block, teachers actually shared out what they created with each other.

Teachers left with an actual lesson, activity, or plan for their classrooms on how to implement whatever training took place.  Walking through the hallways and classrooms throughout that next week, it was unbelievable; teachers were using what they learned in the training within the week.

In the fall we will start the year with the new Asus 213 flippable chromebooks for our 3-12 students and iPads for our K-2 kiddos.  I am super excited but also a little nervous.  Rolling out new devices is stressful and time consuming and you want nothing more than for them to improve the instruction and the learning in the classrooms.

What helpful hints have you learned over the years to make roll out and device utilization as effective as possible?