A year ago, the American Rescue Plan provided billions of dollars in federal relief for K–12 education. Many districts used these funds to purchase devices for every student. However, these devices can’t just be given to students without a plan; they must be distributed intentionally so that students understand how to use them responsibly.

Verizon Innovative Learning Schools have been doing just that since 2014. The program provides devices with internet access to more than 550 Title I middle and high schools across the country. Leaders at these schools spend their summers deliberately planning a device rollout event that achieves three goals:

  • All students receive a device with reliable high-speed internet access. Devices need to be “checked out” to students.
  • Students, schools, and families connect and learn. The event should provide opportunities for families to learn about the device, including basic functioning, safety resources, digital citizenship, and more.
  • Celebrate! The rollout event itself should be a celebration—not of the devices, but of what students can do with the technology. Create a fun atmosphere for everyone involved. STEM-focused stations led by students are a great way to engage attendees of all ages and highlight the learning opportunities that come with the new devices.

Rollout should set the stage for a whole year of learning with technology. When these three goals are achieved, you create a culture of learning with technology that promotes participation by all parties.

A successful rollout requires detailed coordination across the district, IT teams, and school leadership. It is the culmination of months of planning and preparation—not just for the day, but also for what it means to integrate technology into learning throughout the school year. Though everyone is excited to get devices into the hands of students as quickly as possible, it is important not to rush the rollout. As part of this process, students should receive digital citizenship lessons before receiving their devices, so they understand how to cultivate a positive digital footprint, as well as how to take care of their devices, which instills a sense of responsibility.

Students are the most essential component of a 1:1 initiative, and as such, they should not just receive their devices and take part in the activities, but they should play an active role in the day. Empowering students to lead stations, run a helpdesk, or hand out devices gives them shared ownership of the event, creates buy-in of the 1:1 initiative among their peers, and builds their leadership skills in the process.

Digital Promise’s new Rollout Toolkit shares best practices from Verizon Innovative Learning Schools across the country to assist school districts with new 1:1 initiatives. The toolkit also helps set the stage for post-rollout success with systems and processes that support students, staff, and families throughout the year.

Rollout is an exciting time—it’s the beginning of new learning opportunities that are not possible without technology. It will be the first of many occasions to celebrate and learn with students and families, showcasing how technology and access can transform what learning looks like.

Does your school or district currently have a 1:1 device initiative or need to refresh devices with new purchases? What advice do you have for leaders getting ready to roll out devices to students for the first time? Comment below!

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About the Author

Diane Doersch is the director of technology for the Verizon Innovative Learning Schools initiative at Digital Promise and chair-elect of the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN). Follow her on Twitter at (@DoerDi).

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