Monday, November 17, 2014

Tip #1 for a Successful 1:1 Implementation: Execute the Rollout Carefully and Deliberately

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to present at the Ed Tech Teacher iPad Summit in Boston with my colleague Ben Stanerson.  We presented the Top Ten Tips for a Successful iPad Implementation.  Our first tip is to Execute the Rollout Carefully and Deliberately.  It is something I'm continually thankful for as I meet educators from other schools and hear their stories, which quite often seem to be the opposite method--buy everything all at once and implement it at the same time.  Rarely do I hear much about that method that works successfully. Sometimes this disastrous implementation method even makes the news.

Four years ago, Minnetonka Public Schools launched a 1:1 iPad pilot in September 2011 with half of our ninth grade students (out of 750) at Minnetonka High School to create a seamless and dynamic 24/7 educational experience. Because we started small, we were able to focus on just 16 teachers in math, science, and English who worked with these iPad students. The pilot used digital curriculum materials, student collaboration tools and individualized instruction in math, language arts and science — all with the goal of enhancing student learning.  

The goals of our iPad program were to:
  • Enhance and accelerate learning.
  • Leverage existing and emerging technology for individualizing instruction.
  • Promote collaboration, increasing student engagement.
  • Strengthen 21st century skills necessary for future success.

After a successful pilot, the second half of the freshmen class received iPads in January 2012. The program has continued to expand each year thereafter. In year two, all ninth and tenth grade students had iPads. Year three was an expansion to our middle schools, with grade eight through eleven students and over 150 teachers using iPads.  This year we added two more grades, so we currently have 4,500 students in six grades (seventh through twelfth) using iPads.

We attribute this careful, deliberate, and well-planned rollout to our success. Rather than implementing a massive change that affected thousands of users at once in multiple locations, we began at one site with a small group and worked out the glitches.  This allowed us to fine tune our processes, training, and procedures before bringing the project to scale.  

Looking ahead to the future, we also allocated funds to give the entire faculty iPads one to two years ahead of student distribution, which allowed professional development to begin one to two years ahead of schedule. Running the pilot as a controlled experiment enhanced buy-in from all stakeholders. This systematic approach created benchmarks for success and channels for honest feedback. As a pilot, the goal was to learn fast, adjust accordingly, and establish processes for full-scale implementation. I attribute our success to this careful planning and execution. Come see for yourself at our Tenth Annual Technology Site Visit, March 4 & 5, 2014!

You can learn more about our 1:1 Program at

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