At the beginning of the school year the technology team introduced a Lower School laptop cart. Our teachers could immediately identify ways they could use the laptops in class (in many instances thanks to resources from Thinkfinity!). However, some of our K-2 teachers were concerned about classroom management individually distributing, using and collecting the laptops. By the end of the year even our Kindergarten classes were reserving the cart on a regular basis. During our end of the year PD they happily reflected on how successful the process was and the headstart our first grade classes and higher will now have integrating the laptops going forward.
Here are some of the steps we took to comfortably empower the teachers:
- Ensured teachers could trust the technology to be reliable. We developed a clear reservation and delivery policy. In our case we used Google Calendars and created a different calendar for each type of resource. Teachers could book an appointment on the "Lower School Laptop" cart calendar. One person from our tech team was responsible for confirming the appointment and making sure the cart was in the correct room and fully functional at the correct time.
- Developed a straight-forward distribution and collection procedure. From the tech team perspective it was important the laptops be collected and returned correctly to ensure they could stay charged for the next class, make it easy to scan and see if there are any problems, there was a clear space near an outlet for the cart to be parked in the classroom, and the risk of any laptops being dropped or mistreated was minimal. From a teachers' perspective it was important the process was as seamless as possible to maximize instruction time and minimize distractions to themselves and disorganization for the students.
- Used Computer Science to the students procedure and operation. Our Computer Science teacher scheduled time during her periods with each class to work with the students in their classroom environment as opposed to the computer lab. She coordinated this with the teachers in advance to make sure they didn't need to use their rooms during this time. After the students were comfortable with: getting the laptops, turning them on, using a touchpad mouse, accessing the programs they needed, shutting the laptops down, and returning them to the cart; the students were ready to to use the laptops as part of their other classes.
- Differentiated teacher support for the initial roll-out. Teachers had different preferences when it came time to roll-out the laptops in their lessons. It was very important to approach this with a customer-service oriented attitude. If the first one or two uses go well the teachers will keep using technology, if it does not go well or feels like a hassle the teachers are less likely to keep using it.
Each school's procedure might vary based on typical school norms, room set-up and the actual cart and laptops. We brainstormed how this would work considering each of those categories with two classroom teachers. We then modeled it during Back-to-School PD and created easy to follow instructions that we posted on the carts to remind teachers in the moment. We made sure the procedure and instructions were clear enough that assisting, or sometimes even leading, laptop distribution and collection could be a classroom responsibility for one of the students.
Some teachers chose to observe a laptop lesson with the Computer Science teacher and then requested a person from the Tech Team stay in the room for their first lesson integration in case of problems. Other teachers felt more comfortable working independently and a person from the Tech Team simply stayed in the room for the first 15 minutes of the first lesson. Other teachers needed more support and I worked with them to develop a couple of lesson plans and co-taught with them the first time and stayed on hand the next couple of lessons for moral support.
By the middle of the school year even our youngest students and most tentative teachers were laptop experts, making the technology a truly useful tool that could be brought into any kind of class.