By Sam Sakai-Miller

Project LEAN In is San Lorenzo Unified School District‘s program for implementing 1:1 student:device ratio in classrooms to increase student engagement and achievement. LEAN stands for “Learning Environments that ↑ Access and ◎ Needs,” and teachers can be “in” to inspire, involve, intrigue, invite, etc.

We invite all teachers to apply for Project LEAN In, and successful teacher applicants are provided with a mini-lab consisting of a class set of mobile devices in a secure charging cart, as well as professional development support to help them fully utilize the devices for teaching and learning.

At San Lorenzo, our ultimate goal is to provide all students consistent access to technology all of the time. We’re a high needs district of over 10,000 students, so we rolled our 1:1 deployment out in phases. This is tough to accept when you’re passionate about supporting all students immediately because many of our families do not have access to technology at home.

Instead of deploying devices equitably by building or grade level groups, we took a teacher-based approach. All teachers in grades TK-12 were invited to apply to receive one device per student in their classroom and PD support. We chose classrooms based on the teachers’ enthusiasm for technology integration, their willingness to help other teachers and their commitment to improving their craft.

Picture everyone (teachers, students, administrators) leaning in and learning together. We prioritized impact over predictability through this teacher-based rollout because we wanted the devices to get maximum usage. We didn’t want to repeat top-down, whole district deployments that often resulted in unused or underutilized carts that were forced on to unprepared or unwilling teachers. Our students needed to be able to have access to technology as a regular part of their learning environments, not just for testing or when their teacher could reserve a cart for occasional projects.

Applying For Project LEAN In

Through the 100-point application, teachers described their favorite Common Core lesson, vision for technology integration, problem of practice and willingness to provide leadership. They also commit to attend the kickoff and to complete a district tech academy.

Applications are currently open for the next cohort of teachers. Cohort 4 teachers in grades Pre-K to 2 will receive Asus Flip Chromebooks and grades 3-12 will receive Acer C731. All teachers will receive LocknCharge Carrier carts with baskets for optimal distribution, charging and security. Because we believe that teachers (not devices) are the difference makers, the cart stays with the teacher for as long as they remain in the classroom in the district.

Most importantly, each teacher will receive up to $1,000 in hourly compensation for attending the kickoff, follow-up workshops and independent professional development work. Research shows that reflection is where real professional growth occurs, so each teacher has an internal blog page to reflect and share their challenges and celebrations.

Some teachers found that blogs were too open-ended so we created an array of badges (and a reflective activity) to ensure a consistent experience and follow-ups for all teachers as they cycled through eight sessions. It also prevents them from being overwhelmed because they had a menu of activities that they could do collaboratively, independently, online or creatively.

Unforeseen Benefits of Teacher-Based 1:1

We designed Project LEAN In to support teachers and win their commitment, but we didn’t anticipate these additional benefits. Through our rollout, we learned several lessons along the way we’d like to share with other school districts researching this option:

1. Student-centered by design. Each teacher identifies metrics that indicate the impact technology had on student learning. This focus on the cycle of inquiry puts student achievement, not technology skills, at the core of their participation.

2. Greater accountability. We have been experiencing less damage to Chromebooks kept in Project LEAN In carts which is wonderful as there is no budget to refresh these devices in the near future.

3. Personalized PD through cycle of inquiry. We designed Project LEAN In to build capacity in individual teachers, but we did not anticipate just how personalized the PD would be. We set up common expectations but saw tremendous personalized growth. In fact, some teachers continue to earn badges even after funding for this work has expired.

4. PD-only cohorts. We knew that PD had to be included in the cart deployment, but we did not anticipate the need for PD-only cohorts. As Cohort 1 and 2 teachers created an “inheritor” phenomenon–carts were going unused because inheriting teachers did not have the support they needed to get started and use technology meaningfully. Before a teacher is accepted in PD-only cohort, their administrator has to commit to dedicating a cart to them while they teach at their site. We had not anticipated this type of site and District Office partnership.

5. Building on the strengths and enthusiasm of talented teachers. Perhaps the most gratifying unexpected benefit is the number of teachers who tell me how Project LEAN In revitalizes them and their teaching practice. It feeds their lifelong learning needs. One teacher said her students wanted her to have the most badges, which helped her go from tech-reluctant to super tech-enthusiastic. She inspires us to create more badges and check out her website.

Community Action is the Secret to Our “Success”

Actually, teacher enthusiasm for technology integration is not a secret. Most Cohort 1 teachers were very tech-savvy and jumped at the chance to receive district-provided carts. They created the buzz that led 68 teachers to apply for Cohort 2 two months after they received their carts. Previously tech-reluctant teachers stepped up to become Project LEAN In teachers “because [their] kids need this.”

There are now 174 Project LEAN In classrooms throughout the district, and teachers began asking about Cohort 4 even before the Cohort 3 application deadline.

Site administrators are supporting Project LEAN In in important ways as well. They encourage teachers to apply for Project LEAN In as technology integration is a priority for the site. They have committed site-purchased carts to teachers who join Cohorts 2.2, 3.3 or 4.4, which are PD-only cohorts. It’s exciting to report that two of our middle schools are “wall-to-wall 1:1” in core classrooms, and the student council at one of our elementary schools has purchased a cart of Chromebooks.

Taking a teacher-based 1:1 approach was Superintendent Fred Brill’s vision. Our Board of Trustees and parent community showed great support for funding Project LEAN In. It’s truly a student-centered initiative and rollout. We will persevere until we are 1:1 wall-to-wall in spite of the ever-present challenges of funding, keeping up with enrollment adjustment requests and identifying and meeting the needs of each cohort.

For more, see:

Sam Sakai-Miller is the director of Technology Integration Services at the San Lorenzo Unified School District near Oakland, California. Follow her on Twitter: @Samskymiller


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