The Truth About 1:1

I started my Master’s degree in Educational Administration in 2010. I finished in May of 2013.

For three years I studied 21st century educational leadership. I read articles and textbooks, analyzed case studies, and discussed with classmates and professors the traits and characteristics of effective school leaders. In 2011, I started using social networking sites to develop a PLN and began learning from a group of highly successful school administrators throughout the country. Many of these administrators contributed to my capstone project: The Impact of the Tech-Savvy School Leader on School Culture. 

I often imagined what it would be like to work for the kind of school leadership team I had studied for so long: a group of people with a clear vision for their school, which included an emphasis on providing students and teachers with the latest technology, and the ability to effectively communicate that vision to all stakeholders.  I also wondered what it would be like to work for a leadership team that:

  • Gave teachers trust, support, and autonomy
  • Respected a teacher’s time and believed in collaborative professional development
  • Offered constructive feedback focused on improvement of instructional strategies
  • Encouraged strategic risk-taking in order to improve teaching and learning
  • Was visible, accessible and engaged in the school community
  • Valued teachers as leaders

I honestly thought I would never have the opportunity to work for a school with this type of leadership. However, now that I am at Burlington High School, I am fortunate to work for the type of leaders I studied for the past three years. In just one month, I have had more conversations, more POSITIVE and PRODUCTIVE conversations, with members of the Burlington school leadership team than I ever had in any of my previous districts. The leaders in Burlington are approachable and genuine. They’ve made time to answer my questions and they’ve said “yes” to the ideas that I’ve presented.

I’ve been told several times by the administration, “let us know what we can do to help you,” and I’ve been given more freedom and flexibility in my new position that it has been quite a culture shock, but in the best way possible. If I need to talk with the superintendent, assistant superintendent, my building principal or assistant principals, I know exactly where to find them. And when we’ve chatted in the hallway, they’ve made it a point to say hello to every student and teacher (by name I might add) who walks by.  To me, that is the perfect illustration of a 1:1 school environment.

The truth about 1:1 is that it’s not abut the technology, it’s about the culture. Does access to technology contribute to this positive school culture? I believe it does and I am fortunate to finally work at a school where the school leaders believe it too.

Pictured below is the BHS principal, Mark Sullivan. Most mornings you can find him where all school principals should start their day: not in their office, but in the lobby area of their school, talking with students, faculty, and staff.

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7 comments

  • Thank you, Jenn, for this inspiring post, and thank you for your wonderful additions and contributions to the BHS community. We’re blessed and fortunate to have you on board.

  • Let’s hope that communities of practice like yours become the norm and not the exception. Keep up the amazing work, keep those of us not yet as fortunate informed and so as to encourage us as well. Inspirational. Thank you.

  • Jenn, sharing your positive experience is so appreciated, especially within the context of significant public interest and confusion around school improvement and performance. Thank you for illuminating essential aspects of transformational educational leadership and how a positive school culture makes all the difference!

    • Thank you Wendy! It’s been tough to gather my thoughts about what the transition to BHS has been like for me, but after a great deal of reflection, I was able to craft what I hope articulates what a unique environment I am fortunate enough to be a part of. Hope all is going well for you and hope to connect at a future Edcamp!

  • Great post Jenn! I appreciate your research and your work. I plan to do the same one day and am intrigued by your findings. “The truth about 1:1 is that it’s not abut the technology, it’s about the culture” is spot on and as I work within my 1:1 school I am learning that that is true. Many times we are focused on technology instead of focusing on a culture that fosters learning. I plan on reblogging this gem! Good luck and continued success in your new environment.

  • Reblogged this on Dhasty01's Blog and commented:
    I am intrigued by Jenn’s research. “The truth about 1:1 is that it’s not about the technology, it’s about the culture” is spot on and as I work within my 1:1 school, I am learning that this is true. Many times we are focused on technology instead of focusing on a culture that fosters learning. When you add “at-risk” students, inconsistent ($0-?) budgets, and an emphasis on testing the culture is like building a foundation on a moving flatbed.

    As I continue with my life-long journey in education technology, I can now etch a notch on my belt of understanding about 1:1’s. My school has been 1:1 since its creation but is just starting to act like it in its culture. This is evident when students come to my lab to do research on intrinsically motivated projects and not simply school work. Evidence also prevails when I hear few to no comments like, “I don’t even want to go to this school”. As stated in my recent annual goals meeting, the teachers care and work hard and the students are catching up to us! Irrespective of the technology on hand (at your current institution), please place the emphasis on student success beyond the class to embark on a journey of 1:1 before, during and after the technology arrives.

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