PD in a one-to-one environment

I was recently emailed the fol­low­ing ques­tion from an edu­ca­tor con­sid­er­ing the move to one to one.

 What have you seen as an appropriate/adequate/effective amount of PD for schools that have imple­mented 1–1?  (Before the stu­dents received the com­put­ers and thereafter.)

Pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment is cer­tainly one of the key fac­tors for suc­cess or fail­ure for one-to-one schools. My thoughts on this ques­tion are pre­sented below.

There doesn’t really seem to be an easy answer to this ques­tion. The best way to address this is really through a shift in mind­set. All PD should really strive to address ways to find the best tools than can enhance what­ever the PD focus is. It is pretty easy to argue that tech­nol­ogy is one of the very most pow­er­ful tools to do this.  For example…

  • If your staff is focus­ing on project based learn­ing, think of all of the ways that can be enhanced with tech­nol­ogy tools. The abil­ity to cre­ate grows expo­nen­tially with technology.
  • If your staff is focus­ing on rigor and rel­e­vance, tech­nol­ogy can also serve as a tool to pro­vide a much richer expe­ri­ence for students.
  • If your staff is focus­ing on stu­dent engage­ment, there are all kinds of tech­nol­ogy tools that can help engage stu­dents. (If you don’t know what they are, ask your stu­dents to help find them!)

These are just a few of the many ways that tech­nol­ogy can con­nect to pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment. There are other fea­tures that are impor­tant to con­sider when design­ing PD. I would rec­om­mend dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing PD. This should be dif­fer­en­ti­ated by skill level, but there also needs to be a time for con­tent alike teach­ers to con­verse with one another. The Tech­nol­ogy, Ped­a­gogy, and Con­tent Knowl­edge (TPACK) frame­work describes the over­lap of those three areas to achieve truly high lev­els of tech­nol­ogy inte­gra­tion. With­out those con­tent alike con­ver­sa­tions, some teach­ers may have a dif­fi­cult time bring­ing new tools into their spe­cific class­rooms. Although dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion is key, it is also impor­tant to develop a set of tools that are applic­a­ble to all edu­ca­tors. One way to think of this is as build­ing a com­mon foun­da­tion or knowl­edge for all teach­ers. In What School Lead­ers Need to Know About Dig­i­tal Tech­nolo­gies and Social Media, Pamela Liv­ingston and Chris Lehman posed a ques­tion with that theme in their one-to-one chapter.

 What are the essen­tial tech­no­log­i­cal tools that all teach­ers should know how to use?

A final focus I would stress for PD is to develop lead­ers within your build­ing who have the capac­ity to help lead PD and prob­lem solve with other teach­ers. Send those teach­ers to a con­fer­ence or two each year to stay ahead of the curve. Give them some time, maybe a half-day each month, to explore and play with new tech­nolo­gies. Although there is a time and place for “out­siders” to come in and help,  your dis­trict will be money ahead by devel­op­ing their own experts.

Schools fail­ure to invest in PD once they have moved to one-to-one is one of the most com­mon mis­takes I have wit­nessed at one-to-one schools. That lack of invest­ment can cer­tainly make the tran­si­tion to one-to-one a poor invest­ment as well.

Nick Sauers


  1. Alice Barr says:

    In our dis­trict we have found that the longer we are one to one, more pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment needs to be offered, not less. The pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment needs to be dif­fer­en­ti­ated and staff dri­ven. Play and time are crit­i­cal fac­tors to mak­ing a one to one project sustainable.

  2. I find one of the major obsta­cles for teach­ers in 1:1 pro­grams is the belief that teach­ers have to fully under­stand the tech­nol­ogy before intro­duc­ing it to students.

    Last week, when some stu­dents fin­ished writ­ing pieces before oth­ers, I said to the stu­dents with com­pleted RDs, “I’ve been read­ing about paperrater.com. Can you run your papers through the free appli­ca­tion and tell me whether or not you think it is useful?”

    My 5th graders found things I may have never found on my own. I lis­tened to pairs say things like “Look! For a 9th grade paper this earns a C. Can we get a B?” and “I don’t under­stand why this is a grammar/spelling mis­take. Can you (fel­low stu­dent) help?”

    Stu­dents also found errors in the pro­gram feed­back. They decided they wouldn’t like com­puter sites to grade their papers but that the site was an okay tool for gen­eral editing.

    Kids can do some great things with tech if teach­ers can set them free within lim­its (in this case, my limit was to stay only on this site for the day– other lessons have dif­fer­ent parameters).

    PD is great. Some­times it’s more effi­cient to read about new tech options and allow stu­dents to rate them for use­ful­ness. This week, I’ll give stu­dents a choice of four online pub­lish­ing tools to see which they like best.

  3. Curt Rees says:

    Great post Nick. I espe­cially agree with creating/supporting experts within the build­ing. An ini­tial invest­ment in PD for the in-house experts will ben­e­fit your staff with knowl­edge and likely save you money by not hav­ing to always send other teach­ers away for train­ing since they can get it from a colleague.

  4. JL says:

    In my expe­ri­ence open­ing our 1:1 iPad mid­dle school, there are 2 truths that answer this question:

    1.) You need more time than you think & then you still need a lit­tle more time on top of that
    2.) You’ll never be ready, no mat­ter how much time you put into prepar­ing. At some point, you just have to jump in.

  5. Nick Sauers says:

    You make two excel­lent points that I agree with. I would add that the sec­ond point could refer to infra­struc­ture as well as PD. It seems that no mat­ter how much time is spent prepar­ing the infra­struc­ture, there are almost always glitches. Most schools are sim­ply not designed for a 1:1 envi­ron­ment. How­ever, prepa­ra­tion cer­tainly does help min­i­mize those glitches schools have with their infra­struc­ture dur­ing implementation.


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