Mayfield City Schools, Mayfield Heights, Ohio
When Mayfield City Schools embarked on an ambitious 1-to-1 blended learning initiative for grades 4 through 12 in 2016-17, administrators quickly understood that teachers required help learning to integrate the technology.
“Early on in the plan, we realized that in order for this to truly become embedded into the culture, we were going to need a robust, embedded support system, so we could make it about instruction, and not technology,” says Patrick Ward, director of curriculum at Mayfield City Schools.
The district launched a comprehensive professional development plan that combines teachers, administrators and students to research best practices for 1-to-1 instruction.
An interdisciplinary blended learning action research team of 50 teachers, 10 students and several district administrators met regularly throughout the school year to examine the potential impact of 1-to-1. “We wanted teachers to explore with the kids, devices, and content to see what they could uncover about the nature of having tech all the time,” Ward said. Teachers and students actively conducted research to help administrators learn what may or may not be successful before fully rolling out the initiative.
Strategically inviting members from each department and grade level to the action research team made the implementation more personalized, Ward says. As Chromebooks—featuring Intel Atom processors—rolled out, each teacher had one or two colleagues in their department who could assist them with instruction and technical needs, and who could facilitate PD at the department level.
The entire district also began interdisciplinary PLC work to determine how blended learning would improve student outcomes in pre-K through grade 12.
Teachers were at first apprehensive about having tech in the classroom at all times, but once the devices showed up, feedback regarding the level of engagement in classes has been “off the charts,” Ward says. “Teachers have the ability to do things that were more challenging than in the past, give quality feedback, and differentiate instruction. The device has opened up the playbook for teaching.”
The district collects qualitative and quantitative data on the impact of blended learning on classroom practice, and has found improved student engagement, feedback to students, and ability to differentiate and personalize learning. Teachers also note improvement in student accountability for their learning, and more authentic student collaboration and communication.
Students also report improved engagement, and they say that the 1-to-1 environment promotes critical thinking and problem-solving, and allows for more connections to real world concepts. Students also note better real-time communication, motivation, and higher-quality feedback from teachers.
Anecdotal evidence from the action research teams found that classrooms that piloted 1-to-1 the year before saw improved student outcomes compared to those that did not.
The blended environment and the PD work involved has also created an extremely collaborative culture among teachers, Ward says.
“Teachers are hungry to work together to solve problems of student engagement and instructional quality,” he says. “It gets teachers in the same lane as instruction leaders.”
Making teacher training less technical and more focused on instruction eased the transition. Teachers learn best by actually working with the devices and seeing how they can improve instruction, rather than focusing on only the technical aspects, Ward says.
“Making the work less about the device and more about classroom and instructional practice is key to reducing anxiety and fear around making this shift,” Ward says. “Administrators have to empower their teachers and administrative team to co-solve the problem of student engagement and instruction quality.”