By Emily Buchanan
Principal at N.L. Dillard Middle School
On July 1, 2015, I packed my things and moved offices up the hall to the big seat- the principal’s office at N. L. Dillard Middle School in Yanceyville, NC. For two years prior, I had served as an assistant principal at Dillard under an extraordinary school administrator who worked diligently to build the current climate and culture. I am grateful to have worked with her, and any success our school currently has and will have is a direct result of her talent, work ethic, and expertise.
Even though she and I had begun building relationships with our IT department, The Golden Leaf Foundation, and The Friday Institute in order to successfully implement our new 1:1 initiative (our district received $2.1 million in grant money to do this), I was very nervous about my new role and whether or not this initiative was going to work. We were selected as the first school in our small district to implement a 1:1 program, and I felt that all eyes were on me. I knew that I was totally and completely responsible for the success of this program.
I’m pleased to say that we’re currently two months into the first year of our initiative, and while it’s early and I’m probably a little partial, it’s going great! ALL OF MY TEACHERS, including the ones who touted the inevitable failure of this program even before we started, ARE USING THE DEVICES IN RIGOROUS, ENGAGING WAYS WITH OUR STUDENTS! Any visitor who peeks into the classroom doors of our school sees students solving problems, building relationships, and developing critical 21st century skills with their Chromebooks and web tools that they are exploring and learning from our teachers how to use. I see now that, whether all of my teachers know this or not, our school was hungry for this type of technology and for these resources. The students were starving for it.
There are many, many working parts to the effective roll out of any initiative, and each of those working parts requires regular attention and maintenance; however, through reflection with my wonderful Instructional Technology Facilitator and partners at The Friday Institute and The Golden Leaf Foundation, I’ve identified the essential ingredients for creating a successful 1:1 program: assembling the perfect team, sharing decision-making, operating with complete transparency, and maintaining open lines of communication.
I feel empowered to share this recipe with other school administrators. Like with any recipe, there’s never just one “right” way to create the finished product. Below is compilation of the processes and educational perspectives that worked for me and my school and linked examples of how I used each “ingredient” to achieve a specific outcome. Happy implementing!