Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Laptops for Teachers are Essential Tools for the 21st Century

Our School District (Coquitlam, BC, CA) has agreed to set a new direction in how it provides teachers with technology.  Have a quick look at this presentation recently delivered to introduce our principals to the teacher laptop initiative (TLI).
The TLI is designed as a District <—> School cost share:  35% District and 65% School.  Each year up to 1/3 of all teachers will receive a new laptop and after three years, the laptops will be given to students to use and those teachers will receive a new laptop.  In other words, every three years, teachers get a new laptop and students gain access to a set of three year old laptops.

Coordinators from the District Staff Development department will design and coordinate various professional development (PD) opportunities for teachers and the implementation is based on an inquiry model (action research).  Teachers will be expected to commit to participating in an inquiry model, attend some after school PD sessions, provide ongoing reflection in a blog or wiki, and use their District provided virtual classroom to support their student’s learning.  School Leaders are required to support their teachers and to develop a local implementation plan including local PD.

The District will form a “guidance team” of principals (2 secondary, 2 middle, and 6 elementary).  It will also develop measurement instruments, gather data, and report out, as the initiative is rolled-out.  For year one, laptops are expected to arrive in teachers hands February-March 2011.

“So what” you might be inclined to say.  We believe this will significantly increase equitable access to quality tools for all teachers and to enable them to connect their students with relevant resources, information, and with other students outside the walls of their classrooms.  We have schools struggling to provide the tools on their own – some are doing well, others are not.  We believe that this cost share model with built-in PD, District support, local plans, all through an action research model, will help move our entire system forward in its adoption of the use of digital tools and resources to support teaching and learning.  We talk all the time about “21st Century skills and learning” for students…  we need to help our teachers in a focused way if we hope to engage our students in the digital world.

What advice might you have for us from your experience undertaking something like this?  What should we avoid?  What should we absolutely provide?  Thanks in advance for your help.

7 comments:

  1. Congratulations on the support required to attempt such an undertaking. I agree, by the way, that one of the best ways to improve student learning is to give teachers the tools needed to improve *their* learning.

    My advice to you is to do all you can to avoid over-the-top policies designed to punish people in the event that laptops might be stolen or broken. Such negative occurrences are an extreme rarity, in my experience. In order for laptops to be effective, teachers must feel like they can use them - and if they feel like they can use them at home, then your administration has just figured out a way to extend the workday for their employees without spending additional budget: a very worthwhile investment, if you ask me.

    Best of luck.

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  2. Hi Darren - thanks! Fortunately, we are take a reasoned approach to "controls", perhaps sometimes too open and relaxed but. Teachers will be able to take them home - they become their device to use to meet their needs from school or home.

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  3. Hi Brian,

    As you know I just did this with my school. Of course that's a small undertaking compared to an entire district- WOW!

    I know it's yet another big expense but I coupled this with LCD (actually cheaper DLP) projectors in every 'home' room... it goes back to the idea that I've written about a few times that we are offering a black & white education in a (techni)colour world!

    Teacher laptops are key, and yes, they need to use it as 'their' device and be able to take it home and use it when they want... but by adding a projector you now create the gateway for this tool to be used to impact the students to a much greater extent. To me, giving the teacher the laptop but not the projector is a focus on teacher development, whereas with the projector it becomes more of a tool for teaching and ultimately for learning.

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  4. Hey Dave - ya, it's a bit bigger scale to do a District but similar challenges. We talked at length about LCD projectors and their importance, as you say "for learning". In the end, we decided, due to funding limitations, to focus on laptops and encourage schools to continue buying LCD projectors. Many schools have already provided projectors and are focussed on getting one into every classroom. So, schools and the District working together for the common goal will get us where we need to be over a few years. It'll be exciting to see the results, read teacher's reflection, and to talk about "what next"!

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  5. Nice post keeps on posting this type of interesting and informative articles.

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  7. Which can definitely sound discouraging if you've got a laptop that's suffered some damage and needs to be repaired. Why does it work like that though, and what is it that makes laptops so much more challenging to repair than Dell Refurbished Laptops OR Used Laptops For Sale?

    It's all about their architecture - as well as the way their devices work and are manufactured. The first problem is the dismantling process - taking apart a regular desktop computer is easy and straightforward, you just lift the cover of the box and the internals are exposed to you, ready to have you working on them.

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