3 Ways to Deploy 3000 Devices in Your District

Blended Learning

3 Ways to Deploy 3000 Devices in Your District

By Ellen Dorr     Feb 8, 2017

3 Ways to Deploy 3000 Devices in Your District

I recently heard a teacher describe the change in education over the past decade as this: a shift in focus from teaching (the delivery of content and curriculum) to learning (what students actually know and can do).

This is incredibly challenging work. Creating a strong learning culture with student-centered classrooms takes intentionality, vulnerability, and unceasing dedication. And it requires more than just individual effort; it depends on resources and central office support. So what does that support look like, particularly in a more traditional public school district?

Renton School District is working hard to answer that question. Renton is an urban and suburban district just south of Seattle, serving nearly 16,000 students, 73% of color and 52% on free or reduced lunch. Informed by evaluation and focused on district goals, this year the district committed to adding nearly 3,000 more devices for students. The increase in resources is designed to allow students more consistent, reliable access to information, as well as to help teachers better differentiate and personalize student learning.

When it came to supporting schools with this new technology, the central office’s main goal was to provide structures that allowed for optimal growth, much like an adjustable trellis. The tomato plant can grow without it, but will grow faster when that support is put in place early and adjusted based on how things are progressing. With this strong vision and an increase in resources, the Digital Learning department at Renton set out to design models of implementation that would allow each school to best support teachers with the new devices.

Creating plans for smooth implementation

As Director of Digital Learning for Renton, I met with each school’s instructional leadership team before the devices arrived. The goal of these initial meetings was to identify strengths and entry points, focus on student learning, elevate student voice, and create shared ownership in order to develop plans. By understanding the bigger picture and the connection of these resources to academic goals, teams were more invested in the plans and solutions we developed. We discussed the strengths and mission of each school and talked through how change happens at their school.

Because every school’s ecosystem is different, schools ultimately made different decisions about how they wanted to leverage the new devices to support student learning. After facilitating about a dozen meetings, the following models emerged. The models take into consideration both the physical implementation of devices, as well as how to best support teachers with the instructional shift that comes with moving towards a blended model.

Model How Will Devices Be Distributed? What Will Support Look Like? Why Will It Work?
A: Early adopters Application process for new carts, priority to a few tech-confident teachers (early implementers) Digital Learning Coaches support early implementers with suggested models; co-teaching from support team in classroom Allows a select few teachers—those with a range of comfort around tech—to support each other
B: PLCs Devices assigned to grade level Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)—groups of teachers who lead the technology cause Initial session with Digital Learning team and School Improvement Plan team; DLC to work weekly with PLCs (with planning) and with individual teachers (in classrooms) Provides accountability regarding intentional use of resources; operates within an existing structure
C: All-together Equitable distribution through whole staff Digital Learning team to work with whole staff, either short intro with focus on intentionality, or longer session with focus on differentiation Increases consistent, regular access in all classrooms; helps schools create a shared vision around how to use technology

Deciding which model is the best fit for a school’s rollout

Model A: For schools using Model A, the idea is to prioritize and leverage human capital at the building level. In this model, individual teachers are taking on the role of lead-learner, tapping into the support of a Digital Learning Coach, and then influencing their school to expand their experience with digital learning. Because principals’ at these sites operate through a shared leadership model and know the strengths of their staff, they are able to push the learning of teachers further.

This model also allows for slower learning by teachers who are less interested or less ready to increase their use of technology. This model supports learning over time, as modeled by experts in their own building.

Model B: Model B acknowledges that nearly all planning happens in PLCs, which meet weekly to plan and examine student data. Realizing that this is the strongest agent of change in a building, teams choose to have PLCs receive resources and then co-create plans which would be tailored to the grade level and content area(s) they teach. By developing plans in a PLC, they were leveraging their established team strengths and purpose, and were not only depending on each to build expertise but also to hold each other accountable.

To launch this work, some schools hosted an introductory, whole staff session around digital learning. PLCs can then be supported by Digital Learning Coaches, who can plan with teams and co-teach lessons. This model aims to integrate device-based personalized learning into an existing structure in order to minimize feelings of discomfort around a new model.

Model C: Model C is preferred by many of our secondary schools, where physical building layouts and complicated scheduling calendars can create inequitable access to devices. Those limitations prompted schools to create a new model which would allow regular, consistent access in all classrooms. Because of this approach, principals have determined that work needs to be done with the whole-staff. Staff have engaged in digital learning sessions and then created individual next steps to expand the way they are empowering students to have greater agency over their learning. Part of the power of this model is in creating a shared vision as a whole school and being intentional in using technology to enhance student learning.

While some pieces of the three models differ, they all employ strategies which capitalize on the strengths of the school and consider learning progressions for staff. In addition, these models inform the central office about approaches that can be standardized and those that must remain flexible. Like a student-centered classroom, this support is reciprocal, responsive, and powerful. It empowers learners--both teachers and students--and inspires them to grow.

Ellen Dorr (@ellenjdorr) is currently the Director of Digital Learning for Renton School District in Seattle, WA.

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