1:1 technology in elementary grades

The Early Learning Alliance Network distributed the 2017 survey on student required devices for grades Kindergarten through fourth grade to elementary teachers and administrators in a county school district.

The survey was conducted in response to three data points within the Early Learning Alliance Network. Data points are recurring themes in community conversations with teachers, parents, families, early childhood educators, etc. For matters of student required devices themes were selected due to their direct relevance with 1:1 programs involving students in grades K-4. These data points include:

  • Teachers want to be able to help families understand the vision for teaching and learning before they get to Kindergarten. They also want to share their voice on the roll out of required student devices and how to better support K-4 students and families before they even arrive at elementary school.
  • Families want to know what they need to do about required devices (purchase, cases, rent, etc.) well before Kindergarten registration or open houses.
  • Preschool directors are asking if they need to provide training on devices before students arrive in Kindergarten.

The resulting survey was sent to all elementary (K-4) teachers and elementary building level administrators in one county school district. There were a total of 379 emails that were successfully delivered. Of those that were invited to participate in the survey, 77 responded (placing our response rate for this survey at approximately 20%). Of those respondents, 28% were kindergarten teachers, 16% first grade teachers, 20% second grade teachers, 19% 3rd grade teachers, 8% fourth grade teachers, and 1% reported themselves as Library-Media specialists for elementary.

91% of respondents were individual teachers, with 9% reporting themselves as administrators.

While participation in the survey was not at the level that the Early Learning Alliance Network had hoped, we do feel that the data and perspective that was shared was thoughtful and helpful to our organization mission and goals. The survey was designed to answer three key questions around student required devices. The following provides an overview of survey responses within those guiding questions.

  • What do preschools need to communicate to parents/families about the one to one required student devices program and/or district visions for teaching and learning?
  • What resources can our organization leverage to provide learning opportunities around 21st century digital learning to teachers of children ages 0-8 in our community?
  • What resources can our organization leverage to provide learning opportunities around 21st century digital learning to parents/families of children ages 0-8 in our community?

What can preschools do to help communicate to parents/families about the one to one required student devices program and/or district visions for teaching and learning?

One of the most striking findings of the survey was that 93% of respondents view the required student device as an asset to their students. While there were consistently positive comments around the devices and student use, there was some disconnect related to addressing the district vision for teaching and learning.

The high incidence of lower ratings for understanding, communicating, and support at the district level are of concern (even with the limited response data). Data suggests that responding teachers and administrators believe in their students and rely on school supports. However, ongoing leadership and support from the district level could prove positive to the overall readiness, capacity, and impact of the student required devices (through effective teaching and learning practices) at the classroom level.

Learning organizations that have 1:1 programs in place may want to consider the Essential Conditions for Leveraging Technology for Learning that are updated and published (based on current research) from the International Society for Technology in Education. These Essential Conditions may provide a good framework for improving communication, equity, understanding, and continuous support at the district level.

Note that while “systems level” support from any school district can be viewed as approaching innovation with a “one size fits all” approach, best practice (from both national research and policy perspectives) suggests that even the best school-based leaders cannot address the systematic needs of 1:1 required student device initiatives. Systems-level needs must be met with a focus on data, change management, importance of teaching and learning, and strategies for cost effective curriculum and planning.

Specific to communication, it is essential that the preschool community be kept abreast of changing and evolving visions for teaching and learning. It is important that the district, schools, and classrooms within the district highlight examples, share success, and build a common language around learning and goals for students. If those tools and messaging can be leveraged by preschools there may be great benefit to the overall readiness of parents to support school district visions for teaching and learning, and be informed as parents of K-4 students.

Data demonstrate that early communication with parents about device rental, management, protection, etc. needs to occur well before the school year begins. Communication should include resources for parents/families and preschools that can help to share the message of readiness and shape understanding and use of devices by our youngest learners.

What resources can the Early Learning Alliance Network leverage to provide learning opportunities around 21st century digital learning to teachers of children ages 0-8 in our community?

Overall, respondents showed a high degree of technical prowess with the required student devices, with 80% reporting that they did not need additional technical support to use the device in the classroom (20% reporting that they did in fact need technical support). However there was a more significant degree of difference in those individuals who need more pedagogical support to use the required student device in their classroom (63% reported that they do need additional pedagogical support, with roughly 37% reporting that they did not).

The most frequent uses of the student required devices (as reported by respondents) included documenting student learning (87%), reading articles or researching (69%), and taking pictures or capturing video (67%). The least reported use of the required student device was playing games (24%).

The majority of respondents rated their comfort level in using the required student devices for purposeful reasons in their classroom (73% ranking themselves at 4-5 stars). However, there was no correlation with regard to the need for technical support in the comfort level in using the devices for purposeful reasons. However, there was a statistically significant difference in the respondents who reported needing additional pedagogical support and their overall reported comfort level in purposeful use.

When provided options for additional training, 65% of respondents reported needing additional support in instructional strategies for using required student devices in meaningful ways. While 53% needed additional support in utilizing electronic resources through book fees. Professional offerings that respondents felt would be most positively received by their peers include:

  • How deeper learning (inquiry, authentic learning, etc.) supports long-term academic success (56%)
  • Instructional planning that supports STEM (52%)
  • Assessment that is aligned with the vision for teaching and learning (45%)

Additional comments spoke highly of building level supports from technology specialists, but a lacking support of pedagogical expectations and understanding what the vision for teaching and learning is and what the goals for learning are (apart from traditional academic achievement). The open ended responses painted a picture of support, but concern over how prepared teachers are to really use the digital tools, resources, and devices themselves to engage students in deep, authentic and purposeful learning at the elementary level. Specific to electronic resources 70% reporting be able to make use of the electronic resources that are purchased through book fees.

One area that respondents appeared passionate about was the roll out/distribution of the iPads. While 73% reported the roll out was positive, the themes that emerged from the open ended questions included timelines for distribution, time commitments from teachers regarding set-up, leadership at the district level, and consistency in approaches for student accounts and device management.

What resources can our organization leverage to provide learning opportunities around 21st century digital learning to parents/ families of children ages 0-8 in our community?

Results from the survey demonstrated that there is an emerging split between parent understanding and awareness about the required student device prior to school. Analysis of open ended comments throughout the survey suggested that the understanding and awareness is school specific and there is no model, designated approach, timeline, or check-list for communicating with parents.

The Early Learning Alliance Network will work with their internal team to create materials to support successful transition of Kindergarten students through transition packets and other resources. However, for new families school districts may want to find a way to best communicate with those families regarding the specifics of decision making and use of devices.

Suggested parent education topics included (1) How deeper learning (inquiry, authentic learning, etc.) supports long-term academic success: 65%, (2) Digital devices at home for productive use of technology (60%), (3) Parent/Family inquiry night (55%), (4) Parent Family STEM night (53%).

While one respondent noted that their school offers all of those options for parent education, others communicated a great need to think about these offerings at the district level so that events and parent education are provided equitably across schools.

Overall, 92% advocated for school-based events (with online resources being the second most requested option by 45% of respondents). The Early Learning Alliance Network suggests that any online resources be created at the district level to assist with messaging and consistency across district schools, this will help in achieving an equitable parent/family access to materials and ensure that preschools support the correct message for all schools in our community. 

See the full report in our resource library .

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