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Interview with Hiawatha Elementary School's Marilyn MacManus
Author: Hiawatha Elementary School, Berwyn, Illinois | May 16th, 2012

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We sat down with Hiawatha Elementary School's principal, Marilyn MacManus to ask her a few questions about the 1:1 program at her school. Hiawatha Elementary School's program began in 2008 with a couple of laptops per classroom. In 2010, they became 1:1 in a couple of classrooms. The devices implemented in this program are laptops, iPad tablet computers, iPod touches and SMART boards. Currently, 80% of the school is 1:1, although they have enough devices for 100% of the students to be 1:1. A few of the teachers were not ready for the switch last Fall. They will all be ready in August, 2012. Students are allowed to take the devices home at the end of the day.

1) How has your 1:1 program affected the students’ role in shaping how, where, and what they learn?

Prior to 2010 when we began our 1:1 program, our students were confined to learning at school. We purchased Pearson’s Reading Street program (primarily the digital portion of it) and access to several software programs. These are all resources that our students are expected to use at home as well as at school. Our students have found that being sick or having a day off doesn’t prohibit learning. Not every single student has Internet access, but they can still bring their laptops home and work on creating and the preparation of many projects that they continue to work on at school or another place where they can connect. Teachers are working on flipping the classroom. Many of them have made videos or had the students make videos demonstrating many skills. Students have access to tons of books to read through the many on-line programs they can access. This has helped us to provide reading instruction through the use of leveled books. Also, many of the teachers have developed project based units that are multi-disciplinary and much more engaging that previous work designed for students. The teachers are very motivated to continue to develop these units.

2) Has the role of teachers changed as you introduced 1:1? If so, how? Is this an effect of your 1:1 initiative or is the 1:1 program a result of rethinking teaching practice and learning?

Teachers' practice has changed from whole group and some small group instruction, to small group and a lot of individualized instruction. While we began the technology integration 4 years ago, we also have invested a lot of PD in student engagement. After several years of work, we are now focused on student learning with personal response, learning with others, and choice as well as aiming for the middle of the Bloom’s Taxonomy. We try to keep the focus off the technology and on the learning.

3) We often find that there are both reluctant and resistant teachers when schools introduce 1:1 and all the changes this can bring about. It’s normal and to be expected. If this has been the case at HES, what approaches are you using to minimize issues? Are all teachers required to use the technology? Encouraged to use it?

We began 4 years ago and approached a couple of teachers to introduce Smart Boards. Our approach has been to provide laptops and Smart Boards when teachers believe they are ready for them. We have showcased and encouraged all that we wanted to see in learning so that everyone would understand the expectation. We have given all the support that teachers have asked for so that they could make the transition. We’ve given a lot of information about what schools are moving towards and what 21st century jobs will look like. We’ve made sure to send the message that changing teaching and learning environments isn’t an option, but we’ll help make the transition. So, at this point, no one is reluctant. They have everything they need to be successful.

4) What type of support are you providing for teachers during the transition? In general, what is professional development like in the school? Has it changed since you began the shift to 1:1?

We have had PD at the 5 Institute Days, lots of summer PD sessions focused on Apple applications, web 2.0 tools, Google Apps, response systems, etc. We have technology and learning sessions during common plan times during the school day and after school PD. We purchased e-chalk this year which has created a great communication platform for the 1:1. We have helped the staff learn that as well.

5) Have you had to change the design and set-up of learning spaces?

We purchased tables several years ago and continue to investigate furniture and learning arrangements to facilitate the 21st century classroom. We removed our computer lab and made it into a professional learning space.

6) Have you re-considered how you do assessments? If yes, in what way?

We use Discovery Ed for a formative assessment tool and use on-line probes as well as the 4-times-a-year assessment. Our Pearson products have on-line assessments that give the teachers and students immediate feedback. We’ve used Senteo response systems and google forms for quick feedback during learning.

7) How do parents feel about these changes? Any general community reaction?

This is a high poverty, high minority school. Parents are very pleased and proud of what their students are learning and have access to.

8) In your opinion, what has been the most significant challenge in undertaking a 1:1 program? How did you/are you tackling this issue?

Amazingly, our biggest challenge is that teachers coming out of college are not prepared for this type of environment so hiring is challenging. Challenges with our current staff and community have been positive and exciting. There is not enough time in the day to do all that we’d like to.

9) What, so far, has been the most positive outcome in regards to learning that your 1:1 program has garnered? Do you have any story to share with the AALF community?

We have been very proud of the inclusive environment that we have created at Hiawatha School. Seven years ago, we moved from self-contained sped classes to co-taught classrooms at each grade level. Approximately 50% of our students are Limited English Proficient. We have had our greatest success with our neediest students in the accessible environment that we’ve created. Our attendance has improved, we’ve attracted more middle class families that may have gone to the private school, and we’ve consistently performed better each year. We have a very committed staff that is affirmed by the difference we are making here.

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