Culture, Schools and 1-to-1

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 

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