Why and When Mobility Rate Should Drive Your 1:1 Strategy

Written by Debbie Karcher

Student mobility rate is the number of times children change schools during a school year. School mobility rate refers to moves within a classroom, school, and district. Mobility impacts academic achievement. Think back when you attended school to the  times a new student entered or left your classroom. There was some degree of disruption for both the class and the new student because the teacher had to assign a seat, accommodate any special needs, distribute textbooks or learning materials, and introduce them to his/her new classmates. And of course, the student must adjust to the new school.

This article discusses why and when high school mobility rates should be the driver for a 1:1 device deployment. It speaks to an implementation where devices and curriculum should be identical for each grade level and the benefits that can be derived from this uniformity. It will demonstrate that uniformity will lead to equity because the devices and curriculum can be provided to all students regardless of the school they attend. A second article will  discuss the stability rate which is the number of students who stay in one school over one year. It can help  target the best schools for programs implemented outside of the 1:1 initiative, measuring programs’ success and minimizing the support required. 

In any given school, there can be any number, age, and type of technology for several reasons. Devices have  been deployed by individual schools either because of school based management decisions, extra budget, emphasis on technology, and through grants. Also, because devices and their support are expensive districts have implemented technology in stages leading to different platforms, curriculum, and support needs. School leadership changes can result in changes in technology because of personal preferences.  Grants may require the use of a particular operating system and curriculum.

There are also many types of curriculum that can be implemented and introduced in the classroom. In my former district teachers could use material that they found on websites, conferences, and through word of mouth. This means that students may be using instructional materials that has not been adopted by the district and it could be used at just one school or by one teacher.  All of this  has led to digital disparities within many  school districts which can cause instructional setbacks to highly mobile students.

Imagine a student that changes their school at least once a year. Homeless and economically disadvantaged students will have even more changes. As the student moves from one school to the next chances are he or she will be using a different computer and curriculum. A core course such as Coding or Algebra 2 could be presented on different operating systems, digital curriculum, textbook or any combination.  As a result, the student must learn how to use a new operating system, or new instructional material all before he/she gets to the lesson that is being taught. It is easy to understand how quickly these highly mobile students can fall behind.

This is the main reason, as well as others, that technology and digital instructional materials be selected, purchased, and implemented from central administration and tightly controlled in highly mobile school systems. As students move to and from schools the change should be as seamless as handing out a district adopted textbook. District textbook adoptions have been going on for years and districts benefited from economies of scale and students have benefited from uniformity. The same is true for digital curriculum, to even a larger extent because their progress is recorded. The  student and teacher know exactly where the student left off in their last school and can immediately begin learning; especially if the curriculum is cloud based.

The same argument also applies to teachers and technical support staff because these individuals may work in multiple schools or change schools. If a teacher moves to another school, they face similar support and training issues. Teachers are expected to troubleshoot a technical issue to the extent they determine it is a hardware problem beyond their capacity to fix. They may also need to learn a different curriculum to teach the same course as they taught in a previous school.  This puts an additional burden on the teacher to and takes away from valuable instruction time; impacting student achievement.

A school technician is probably already supporting multiple devices and operating systems.  When new devices or operating systems or a new interactive board is installed, the technician is expected to support these. If the technician serves multiple schools they also need to know the schools’ infrastructure, device and operating systems and have some knowledge of the software curriculum used by the school. Their troubleshooting usually goes beyond connectivity. The more diverse the technology; the longer it takes the technician to resolve the problem. Miami-Dade began their Digital Conversion in 2014. It is a high mobility district. The thoughtfulness of the leadership in implementing devices to all 7th grade Civic students provided not only uniformity but ease in distributing devices, professional development to teachers and technicians, and support services. It minimized the trouble-shooting because the problems were limited to one grade level, one curriculum and one device. It was not known if going to a digital platform would impact the Civics State Assessment. But one thing was certain, every child and parent had the guarantee that regardless of the school they attended, their student(s)’ Civics class would use the same curriculum, on the same device, all teachers would have professional development, and the technical support would be available.