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The Challenges Rural Schools Face Implementing 1:1 Technology in the Classroom

Putting a notebook or tablet in the hands of every teacher and student in the classroom is a goal school districts across the U.S. are striving to accomplish. For rural communities, it offers a wealth of advantage for both the students and the educators.

For teachers in especially small and isolated schools, it allows them to connect with colleagues and share lesson plans and strengthen professional relationships. Students of course have another avenue with which to discover and strengthen already learned skills and concepts.

Making a school a 1:1 technological learning environment can be especially difficult though for some rural schools where the budget is often an issue.

“When you have very few resources, not enough to address the needs of the school and provide a public education, you have to pick and choose,” Mike Muir, the former director of Maine Learning Through Technology said.

Simply outfitting each student with a new Chromebook isn’t a one-step path to having a beneficial 1:1 technology environment in the classroom. The advantages that it offers students is largely dependent on the preparation and skills of the educators. Researcher Bernadette Doykos did a survey of Maine’s public schools and how those with 1:1 classrooms utilized the technology. She found that the more rural schools weren’t using the technology to its full potential. “In lower-income schools, they were using them for more traditional activities like research and word processing,” Doykos said. “Whereas, in higher-income schools, we saw more of the collaboration and development of more 21st-century skills using technology.”

It’s crucial that the role of the device and how it’s best utilized in the classroom have a clear definition. Professional development that not only presents the device's functionality, but how to integrate it into current lesson plans as well as the development of new ones, can help teachers who may feel a bit lost. Maine has found a solution to this issue by each school assigning a designated “teacher leader.” These teacher leaders have the duty of connecting with other teacher leaders around the state to troubleshoot on problems and share resources.

It can be easy for school administrators to get hung up on choosing which device is right and how long it will remain technologically relevant. Focusing too much on this or seeing it as a fix-all solution though, is a mistake. It’s important that laptops and tablets not become a crutch and that educators and school administrators know when it should be used and when it should be put away.

Our world is rapidly changing and 1:1 classrooms can help both teachers and students adapt to it. So long as they go about creating a learning environment that makes the most of the tools provided to them.


Article by Joel Stice, Education World Contributor

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