Placing a device in the hands of every child in grades 3-12 has been a tremendously positive experience for the vast majority of our students, staff, and parents. We have seen the many of the same benefits that other similar districts have described.  Students are more engaged, teachers are experimenting with new ideas, collaboration is up, and costs for materials such as paper and toner are going down.  While those outcomes are fantastic in their own way, I find the unintended innovations to be much more fascinating.

Unintended innovations are the amazing educational transformations that occur after going 1 to 1 that no one could have foreseen prior to introducing those devices into the culture.  If you’ve ever visited a district to hear more about their 1:1 computing initiative or read an article/blog post on the topic, think back to what sticks out in your mind about what you saw or read. What is the one thing you remember the most?  Is it how much they saved on paper? Or what about how they dealt with a specific content issue?   My guess is those process details are the furthest thing from your mind.  I would wager that you remember one of the stories of unintended innovation that was discussed.

Here are some examples from our district and others who I’ve spoken to about this topic:

  • Foreign Language students using online tools to record themselves practicing dialect so they can then listen and critique themselves.
  • English students producing movie trailers for a traditional novel study.
  • A student who is a foreign refugee using the Google research tool to match pictures with words to learn English.
  • Students developing their own individualized organizational methods to keep track of their digital work.
  • The basketball team that began recording their games and sharing the footage with each other via the cloud so they could learn how to operate better as a team.
  • The music teacher who threw out traditional sheet music and began teaching his class using digital tools.
  • A student who was historically quiet during class finding the confidence to speak up after several successful online classroom discussions.

This list could run on for pages and pages. These unintended innovations are the true measure of success for a 1 to 1 program. Students are using the tools provided to them to personalize their learning.  Our teaching staff is embracing the digital revolution using the tools provided to them to provide new avenues for learning. When a district can overcome the fear of the unknown, the unknown can transform the district.