Web Tools for Learning

I enjoyed working with teachers this week in West Chester discussing learning in the 21st Century, NETS Standards and sharing the Tpack Model and some online tools to enhance lessons in their classrooms. These teachers are in classrooms where students have access to one to one netbooks daily in their classrooms to support learning. What a creative and energetic group! They had additional suggestions of great tools to explore. Above you’ll find the ones we looked at. Which ones would you add?

Planning for One to One Laptops and BYOD

If you were taking a long awaited trip, how far in advance would you begin planning? A year, three months, one month?
You’d surely want to make sure that is enjoyable, worthwhile and that your trip is just what you had envisioned. You would plan well in advance.

What if you are implementing new technologies in the classroom? How far in advance would you begin planning? Two years, one year, one month?

If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else. – by Berra, Yogi

If you are going to implement an innovation such as a one to one or bring your own device (BYOD)  it must  be done on purpose and with purpose.

Indeed, some say that if you don’t plan for one to one or mobile access in your schools, it will simply happen to you. Increasing requests and student needs many necessitate it in some cases and the planning won’t have been done.  This scenario is the one most would want to avoid.


Baseball Diamond
The growth of One to One programs is an important educational development. There is substantial research such as found in the Speak Up Survey to tell us that this is an educational technology trend whose time has come,.

One to one programs put the world at our students fingertips. Indeed, they hold lots of promise.

One to One Implementations

There are many districts leading the way such as Van Meter in Iowa. I visited Van Meter in the spring of 2009 and was
immediately taken by the high level of student engagement and easy manner with which the students could describe how one to one expanded their learning. What struck me most however was how both the school’s administrators and teachers easily spoke to the goals for the one to one initiative.   From the superintendent John Carver down to the teachers, such as Shannon Miller, there was a common focus in regards to their goals and direction.   They knew where they were going and why.
Everyone seemed to be on the same digital ‘page’ so to speak. Solid planning clearly had occurred at Van Meter.

If you are thinking of planning a one to one or BYOD  initiative what steps might you take?

Steps for Planning One to One / BYOD


Learn about what other schools are doing so that you can learn from their process, their challenges, their successes
Consider the ways in which one to one learning suits your school’s needs
Consult existing technology plans and existing academic plans and goals. Hopefully, they are integrated.
Talk to students about how they will use the technology and adapt to the changes. Gather their input

Select the Tech

Investigate various equipment – Laptops, netbooks, tablets, cell phones. Include insurance fees.
Choose software applications and web tools that will support learning best
Update bandwidth and electrical as needed


Choose a group of teachers and/or students who can implement early
Get student input on the progress
Get teacher input on the benefits and challenges
Monitor progress and evaluate the program
Make a list of changes that are needed before broad-scale implementation
Get excellent professional development and encourage individual teacher professional learning


Consult existing plans and expand them as needed
Bring students into the planning and evaluation processes
Allow teachers time to collaborate on best practices, best resources
Create and mold policies to support the learning

Educate the Community

Make sure that you include parents in the process
Share the academic goals and strategies which are being employed
Advise them of policy changes
Advise them of their role in supporting their child’s use

Implementation Time

A Philadelphia school, Mercy Vocational High School, is embarking on a one to one program for the 2011-2012 school year. They are blending one to one and bring your own device.

  • One to One Netbooks  for the freshmen and sophomores
  • Bring Your Own Device for juniors and seniors

It was a multifaceted approach to planning for Mercy Vocational High School says administrator Catherine Glatts. They covered all of the bases from technical to administrative to professional development to community support well in advance.


On Listening: ‘What helped us most was connecting with other schools who were already implementing some kind of 1:1 program. I listened to their lessons learned.’ Catherine Glatts, Mercy Vocational High School


On Educating the Entire Community: ‘Our administration is on-board with technology. They have been very supportive in moving the technology program forward.
Benefactors helped to make it reasonable for our students since many could not afford to buy their own netbook.’

On Professional Development: ”We trained our faculty and continue to train them. Faculty acted as students for a day, carrying the netbooks and using online tools.
We focused on just two tools to teach them at first: Google Apps and Edmodo. I, as an administrator, shared many google docs with my faculty so they had an opportunity to understand Google docs.  We also set up a faculty group in Edmodo to share ideas and promote other interesting links and tools.’

On Collaboration: ‘I have a  fantastic tech team to help promote the technology. They are always willing to help whomever needs help.’

On Selecting Tech: ‘Having good bandwidth is important. We are still testing our bandwidth and upgrading our Internet service.’


In summary, listen to those who are doing it now and plan wisely. Our students are worth our absolute best efforts.  Successful planning for educational technology initiatives can make all the difference in the world. Plan well in advance on purpose and with purpose and create the 21st century classrooms our students deserve.

Related Resources

7 Critical Questions for Technology Planning – TechConnects

Van Meter Schools, Iowa

One to One Schools

Mercy Vocational

Speak Up Survey – On TechConnects

This is cross posted on School CIO published Tech and Learning

On TechConnects

Students Own Learning One by One


Welcome Back to our Virtual Academy!

What a way to kick of our 2011 Virtual Academy sessions! We recently held the first of our 2011 Virtual Academy sessions. These are online professional development sessions for our educators across the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

20 Years of One to One Laptop Experience – Gary Stager Sharing

Gary Stager has worked with schools for many years and has a sharp focus on student engagement and constructivism.  He helps educators make sense of the extraordinary potential of technology for learning and has worked with schools over the last 20 years in making the shift to One to One Laptop Learning. We were happy to have Gary with us at our first 2011 Virtual Academy session. This post summarizes this session and shares the resources. To listen and watch view the archive linked below along with the other resources shared.

Only inertial and prejudice stand in the way to giving every child access to a computer

Gary reminds us that it is ‘important to focus our energies and funds, schools can get more laptops into the hands of our children. We spend money on music lessons on entertainment on video games and so much more.’ Making laptops available to students more often for more purposes can have a profound impact on the quality of learning. In doing so, classrooms can ‘Be learning centered, provide more collaboration, and enhance learning.’

With technology advancing we can learn and do things that were not possible a few short years ago. More engagement than ever is now possible. It is important to stop believing that we live in a world where kids are not connected.

Expanding access is critically important says Stager. ‘Most children use computers for less than one hour a week. He feels that one reason that technology is not used more in schools is that there simply hasn’t been enough of them to use.

School has always reflected the technology of the day. What is readily available is what is present in schools.

Who is the Technology For?

Before going One to One with laptops for students, schools should determine who will have agency or power.  Who is the technology for?

  1. For the System
  2. For the Teacher
  3. For the Learner

Stager emphasizes that if we emphasize technology For the Learner, only then can we reach the full potential of technology in schools. Summing up the theme of his presentation, in four words, would look like this:

Less Us, More Them

Allow our students to do more and they can learn more.  Laptops create a more student centered, constructivist learning environment and this creates an environment for powerful learning. Stager’s 20 Lessons Learned is below:

20 Lessons Learned on One to One Laptop Classrooms

  1. Determine who has agency – Empower the learner espoused by many such as Seymour Papert
  2. What sort of ‘laptop school’ Move in this direction for the good of the students. Be  one that supports students and supports the use of the technology well.
  3. Set high expectations– Computers are readily available and more affordable than ever before.
  4. The laptops go home – “It is inevitable that all students will have laptops whether we are planning for it or not” Move towards one to one access if at all possible.
  5. Behave as if the laptops are personal computers – ‘The notion of personal is important’ Personal gives ‘ownership’ of the item and the learning.
  6. Children need real multimedia portable computers – The laptop hardware and software should enable the capacity to learn and create with the tools given.
  7. Laptops make good teachers better – They act as a magnifier onto our current practice.
  8. The network is not the computer – Trade laptops for wired computers. Heavy investments in infrastructure and server storage may be less necessary in laptop schools.
  9. Every child’s laptop is a studio, laboratory, publishing house – Actions and activities should flow towards student creativity, problem solving
  10. 1:1 is cost effective– nobody washes a rental car. Shift as much agency and ownership to the student as possible.
  11. Every laptop needs open-ended creativity software, but less is more if fluency is the goal – Young people ‘can learn to sing and dance and create on their computers. We need to empower students for these learning purposes.’  Software determines what you do and what you do determines what you learn. Microwolds Ex, Pixie or Imageblender, Animationish, InspireData, Comic Life, Scratch, Pico Cirickets and Wedo, I Work Pages,Keynote, Numberrrrs and Ilife for Imovie, Iphoto, Garageband, Iweb and Idvd are software examples cited.
  12. Seize the impossible – Imagine, build, create. Students will pleasantly surprise you in what they make and build.
  13. That is what it looks like if students have time -“Less us, more them” The ubiquity of one to one computing can transform the work that is done when fully supported. Provide the professional development time, the student time, the software, connectivity and more. Support it fully for best effect.
  14. Entire cohorts of students need to get laptops at once –  Choose full groups of students for one to one access. Example – One class or floor at a time.
  15. There is zero benefit in giving laptops to teachers first – Don’t make students wait until teachers have had new computers first. Teachers can see what is possible and reflect on their practice if they first can see through the eyes and screens of the child,
  16. Professional development must be focused on benefiting learning – Empower teachers with the skills they need to use the applications so that they can encourage the learning with these applications, activities and strategies.
  17. Work with the living and do no harm!
  18. You need sustainable leadership and vision – Have sustained reflection and collaboration for teachers.
  19. Expect everything to change – Laptops are a window onto the future and a magnifying glass on current practice.
  20. We are done arguing! “If you really believe that one to one won’t eventually happen, you will never believe in the future”  It is part of the world of young people today and ‘it is wrong to deprive them of this type of learning.’

The primary job of teaching is to ‘Make Memories’. says Stager.

‘These types of learning environments allow students to engage in a wider deeper range of projects than they ever have before. It is in their realm to do so and we should be using this environment to its greatest potential.’

Less us, more them

Gary was inspirational and it was clear that he had seen results of One to One Laptops from years of hands on experience. As educators, we know that it is imperitive to give our students the best opportunities for learning. Putting the technology into their hands that they now need can open the world to them. It is our job as administrators and teachers to make that happen. We as educational leaders need to support students and teachers in this regard.  Going One to One in schools really helps  ‘teachers to benefit kids by looking through their screens and through their eyes’.

Resources Virtual Academy Session – One to One Resources with Gary Stager:

  • Research on Technology and One to One Learning Environments by Gary Stager
  • Resources from our Virtual Academy – ONE to ONE Resources with Gary Stager http://stager.org/plp/ Scroll to the bottom. Excellent resources and research materials for One to One Classrooms.
  • Listen to the archive here: http://bit.ly/fIATCQ

It was a thought provoking session which gave our educators excellent resources for supporting One to One student learning. We are thankful to Sheryl Nussbaum Beach and PLP for helping to bring Gary to our Virtual Academy.

As one school principal said, ‘ This session gave me the exact support and justifications I needed to take the next steps to One to One. I am excited and ready to make this happen in my school’.