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In Their Own Words: Teaching and Learning in a 1:1 Environment

photoThis article appeared in the June 2013 Newsletter of the 1:1 Institute.

The Salisbury Township School District, a Project RED Signature District and Apple Distinguished Program, has just completed its second year of Teaching and Learning 2014 (TL2014), an initiative aligned to the district’s strategic plan and designed to transform teaching and learning in the classroom. A core component of the initiative is a 1:1 computing environment in middle school and high school.

Over the past two years, we have learned the value of building the capacity of students, teachers and administrators to realize the vision of a classroom where students have increased opportunities to develop important skills in collaboration, communication, creativity and problem solving and teachers shift the focus to student engagement and changing assessment. Salisbury Township School District has truly become a learning organization where our vision for the classroom is reflected in the work of all stakeholder groups.

Twice a year, the district administers surveys to students, teachers and parents to receive feedback on the program and gauge changes in the teaching and learning environment. In addition to sharing the words of students and teachers, this article will provide a glimpse into teaching and learning in Salisbury’s 1:1 environment.

Teacher as Learner: Systemic change such as a 1:1 initiative can only happen when sufficient resources (both personnel and time) are invested in the growth and learning of teachers. In Salisbury, teacher learning is led by the TLC team, a group consisting of the Supervisor of Instructional Practice, Assistant Superintendent, library media teachers, instructional coach and computer technicians. The team meets regularly to plan professional development opportunities district-wide and building specific.

Since the beginning of TL2014, the TLC has provided professional development to over 80% of the teaching staff. Working in teams comprised of grade level bands (i.e. K-1, 2-3, 4-7, 8-12), teachers are provided release time to attend workshops focused on specific computer applications (i.e.  iLife, iWork, web 2.0 tools) and instructional practices (i.e. SAMR model, project-based learning, challenge-based learning). With support from members of the TLC, teachers return to the classroom to implement a project or strategy developed during the professional development. Upon returning to the group at the next meeting, teachers share successes and collaboratively address challenges experienced in the classroom.

Recently, teachers were invited to share their most memorable classroom teaching and learning experiences from the past year. Here is a sample of what they had to say.

My students were able to use video content to activate and build prior knowledge before beginning a unit. Using the video content, the students were able to engage in higher level conversation and higher level questioning prior to beginning the unit. The level of student engagement and active participation helped to create a productive and interesting conversation which then carried over and into the unit. The ability to quickly and effectively engage the students in a simple prior knowledge building activity resulted in improved student performance throughout the unit.

My students created their own projects for the Gilded Age through World War I this year. They had to plan, design, write their expectations, create a rubric by which the project would be graded and then execute the project. Their work consisted of anything from creating simulations to reenacting the negotiations of the Treaty of Versailles to iMovies to Keynotes with student-created videos embedded to using new tools they discovered like Murally. Because this was student driven/created and assessed according to their standards they raised the standards and performed accordingly. Had I created the project it would likely have been less engaging for the kids and perhaps the standards to which they rose would not have been as high. It was a joy to see their work and how proud they were of it.

I am doing a multicultural unit beginning with Ruby Bridges and A Time for Justice in which kids use websites and information from books to view and decide on a civil rights issue to research and report on. Kids’ sense of fair play and outrage engendered some great class discussions.

Student as Learner: While the continued learning of teachers is integral in any 1:1 environment, student learning is at the heart. TL2014 has focused on increasing learning opportunities for Salisbury students:

  • in critical 21st century skills: critical thinking and problem solving, effective oral and written communication, collaboration, creativity and curiosity, adaptability, organization, initiative and entrepreneurialism.
  • in student engagement in a dynamic, technology-rich learning environment.
  • in project-based and challenge-based learning (CBL), mirroring real-world work force and higher education environments.
  • in differentiation and individualized instruction through the use of technology.
  • in reading and writing in new formats and modes common in the 21st century.

Through regular data collection and analysis, evidence is emerging that we are making progress toward each of these goals. One of the most significant is in the area of shifting instructional practice with increased use of projects and alternative assessments.  Our students now have more choice in how learning is demonstrated.

I completed a history project in the form of a documentary. The resources that were opened up by having a laptop were very helpful in not only assembling the physical documentary but researching. By having a wider range of options and articles, books, reports, and other sources to look at I was able to create a clearer thesis statement than I ever would have without the access the laptops provide.

I completed a project on biodiversity. The project required me to work with a group to research expert opinions online and with scientists. We then chose an idea to make a persuasive presentation using Keynote for the class. When we shared to the class we got many people to agree with our ideas.

I completed a CBL project to increase the quality of school lunches. I made a Google Apps slideshow of my research, and had several shared documents that I worked on with my group members throughout the project. We were able to work together outside of school because of these documents, so we got more done. Finally, we presented the project to the class and shared a video with them as well from YouTube about a school that had a great new lunch program.

In Salisbury, teaching and learning in a 1:1 environment is changing as a result of a focus on the learning of teachers and students. For additional information about TL2014 and to review more examples of learning, visit