Burlington High School, Burlington, Kansas
Educators involved implementing Burlington High School’s 1-to-1 initiative in 2013 realized the need for edtech-based PD beyond simply training teachers how to turn on devices.
“We saw this opportunity to move up to teaching the higher-order thinking skills,” says Doug Vander Linden, director of educational training for Burlington USD. “We wanted to take advantage of that by helping our teachers understand what project-based learning was and wasn’t, and how cooperative learning fits inside of that.”
To help that transition, the “Cadre Training for 1-to-1 Success” PD program was launched in 2013. The first cadre was spread over five days during summer vacation and included 10 high school teachers. Since then, the program has been expanded to run throughout the school year and includes teachers from the district’s middle school, which is launching its own 1-to-1 initiative.
PD covers the three main pillars for successful implementation of a 1-to-1 program.
The first emphasis is on pedagogy—particularly, examining the curriculum and how instruction changes with technology. Next, educators focus on the logistics of the initiative, including how to manage 1-to-1 and project-based learning.. Finally, PD participants study technical management, which covers maintaining devices, accessing new apps and integrating edtech tools into instruction.
Throughout, teachers learn to transform their classrooms into 21st century learning environments that encourage the four C’s—creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration. For example, the teachers experiment with open-ended assignments. “We talk about content, but also not putting a fence around a project—to see where the students will take it,” says Vander Linden.
PD also investigates altering assessment rubrics in conjunction with project-based learning. Less restrictive standards allow students to rise to new levels of learning by taking risks and developing new approaches.
Another point of emphasis is how to facilitate just-in-time learning. With the accessibility that in-class technology provides, students can immediately research answers to questions on their own as they arise during instruction. A trip to the library to look something up—or waiting for an expert to provide guidance—is no longer necessary.
Originally, the program featured two days of interactive PD training, followed by two days of independent work where teachers researched and created their own edtech-related lessons. It ended with a final day of “show and tell.” That final day has now been transformed into five full “action research days” that occur throughout the school year. Action research days often focus on a specific topic and allow teachers to share feedback and resources.
One key aspect of the program is deep reflection. On the last day, teachers respond to the prompt, “What I wish I knew when I started last summer.” Participants often say they did not realize they did not have to implement everything they learned right at the beginning of the school year, Vander Linden says.
Another concern is that implementing edtech into the classroom might result in—to quote one participant—“a teacher losing their flavor” when it comes to instruction.
“Teachers are not changing everything, just enhancing and supplementing their instruction,” says Vander Linden. “They find that they now have the ability to do projects that they never thought they could. And they still get to maintain their flavor as a teacher.”