Teaching, Learning & Technology
Sharing best practices from faculty around the world who are using technology to transform teaching and learning.

“Where’s the Beef?” when it comes to your tech investments

One of the most memorable beef-300x282.jpegad tag lines of the 1980s, when Wendy’s introduced actress Clara Peller in the memorable 1984 commercial. Other burger chains sure had visually appealing buns, but when you look inside, the results were quite different. The same holds true 30 years later. Classrooms might look pretty being filled with all of this technology, but at the end of the day, parents, board of education members or your community is going to ask you “Where’s the Beef?”

Just because your school has chosen to adopt one to one, doesn’t mean you’ll have much success. In fact, the majority of projects result in little to no meaningful results.


But why?


Project Red, a nonprofit dedicated to the best practices in one to one learning, studied over one thousand such projects. When schools just buy a lot of printers and devices,Results.jpg they may see some modest reductions in disciplinary issues and dropout rates, but only a properly implemented program delivers significant reductions and dramatic increases in high stakes testing and graduation rates.


It’s important to note that schools that just buy devices saw test scores increase from 69% to 70%.....almost non-existent. In those instances, their investment yields virtually nothing. But only with a proper plan do schools see that increase to 90%.


The biggest problem with this? Most school officials can’t tell the difference between all 1:1 programs and those that have been properly implemented. They seemed almost surprised to know that ProjectRED has a roadmap of the 1,500 decisions, in order, a school must make to ensure the greatest likelihood of success. Then again, I’m equally surprised that many education technology companies aren’t aware either.


Huntsville-results.jpgHuntsville City Schools is a prime example of getting it right. Not only did they make the investment of dollars for the technology (one could argue spending money is the easiest part of the program), but they also made the investment in planning, curriculum and in teacher preparation to make it work. Changes were made to the overall curriculum. Professional development days for faculty are measured in the dozens, not one or two like so many districts. Budgets were reallocated to embrace the savings potential from a digital model, to make the actual implementation cost of the program negligible to the school system.


Other districts are also starting down this path. Houston, Baltimore County and Miami-Dade are all undertaking massively sized 1:1 efforts in the coming year. Each is making critical decisions in advance to move the needle academically. Houston has made an effort to showcase their critical decisions to the public, recognizing the importance of stakeholder communications to the success of any program. Miami made a very sound decision to initially postpone launch of their program in order to ensure their plan, once adopted, had the greatest chance for success.


We all want positive outcomes for our students. But proper planning and strong partners will make the difference between the “hero” or the “zero.” 

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About the Author
A former K-12 district administrator and adjunct professor of communication, Elliott has won over 60 state and national awards in school pub...

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