May 25, 2018

GUEST COLUMN: Williston needs the 1-to-1 iPad initiative

By Bonnie Birdsall


Here in the Williston schools, we are excited and very fortunate to have this new initiative included in next year’s proposed budget for our fifth and sixth graders. Some members of our community are asking excellent questions and we thought we’d share some background information.

After many conversations initiated by teachers at the grades 5-8 level from last spring through the fall of this school year, a group was formed to begin discussion about what embarking on a 1:1 program might look like in Williston. Representatives from each academic team, the technology department and administration were invited to join the group and began to meet. This group met to discuss this idea and most importantly, come up with WHY we would want to go down this road. We also received great support from the community about exploring this avenue.

We have looked at five critical steps for implementing this 1:1 initiative. Careful thought and research continues to go into these steps and much more.

Step 1: define the goals of the 1:1 program

1. Technology is our main resource. It’s easier to find resources online to support literacy (Common Core), have the ability to annotate work and it’s less expensive than buying hard copies of books.

2. World competition: if we want to compete, we need to join in.

3. Personalizes education. It provides great resources for kids with all different styles of learning.

4. It’s a major shift in our learning environment; it provides transparency and ownership of learning, and students create their own personal learning networks.

5. Students have the ability to publish their work, widening their audience.

6. Equity: it levels the playing field for all students.

7. We’re providing 21st century tools for 21st century learners.

8. It helps teachers design learning experiences to support a paradigm shift.

9. It’s the intent of 1:1 programs to empower students with the responsibility of anytime, anywhere learning. Everyone will have 24/7 access.

10. It fosters creativity, motivation and engagement.

Step 2: The role of the device in our classrooms 

The device is simply a device. It is not coming to take over our classrooms, nor is it replacing quality teaching. This device will give students a better opportunity to share, connect and seek out information. It will not be a distraction, but another arm of the classroom.

Step 3: Harnessing the device’s power

We will offer professional development that not only presents the device’s functionality, but displays examples of it in use for our faculty. Funds for professional development are built into the budget. We are also fortunate that we have many resources and people to turn to who have traveled down this road already. Locally, this includes Burlington, South Burlington, Essex Junction, Essex Town and many more schools in Vermont that have already initiated 1:1 experiences with students.

Step 4: Put it away when appropriate

Our students will not be using this tool and only this tool throughout the day. They will still use pencil and paper, have face-to-face interactions and solve problems collaboratively. “Technology tools are essential. It is no longer good enough to have a scheduled ‘computer time’ on shared devices. On the other extreme, it is also not appropriate to have students ‘staring at a screen’ all day. The tools our students use as part of their investigations need to be there, in the background, available when they need them. They may need to check a fact, look up where a town is on a map, jot down a key bit of information. Having a tool on hand progresses their learning immediately,” wrote Richard Lambert, an Australian assistant principal, on his education blog,

Step 5: teach, model and support information literacy

The iPad’s powerful collection of multimedia tools provides innovative ways to inspire student learning. The device is an avenue for learning and discovery, but it cannot replace the student’s ability to think critically and question. The device will give them access to a plethora of information and potential answers, but it will not always give them a clear course to follow. That’s where effective teaching is essential and new literacies are taught.

A 1:1 initiative should be our ally in the daily task to provide our students with the best access to information and promote learning. There is no denying the rapidly changing pace of our world. It is our responsibility as educators to prepare our students for this world. A 1:1 environment is simply a start. We are preparing our students for their future, not our past.

To help answer questions about this initiative, we are establishing a resource page on the school’s website. If you have specific questions, feel free to contact Bonnie Birdsall

Bonnie Birdsall is the technology integration specialist for the Williston School District.


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