Home » Classroom perspectives, Edtech insights, Professional development

“1:1 is Not About the Device” and Other Advice from HISD’s Lenny Schad

Submitted by Sam at SMART on March 10, 2014 – 7:52 am12 Comments

Lenny Schad is the CIO of Houston ISD in Texas and held the same position at Katy ISD. He’s a customer who we’ve enjoyed learning from and working with over the years. He has a lot of advice to share about BYOD and 1:1 initiatives so we asked him to share some of those insights on our blog.

Lenny recently published his learnings from the Katy ISD BYOD experience in his new book Bring Your Own Learning: Transform Instruction With Any Device published by ISTE. Houston ISD has taken a different approach with a 1:1 implementation called PowerUp. PowerUp has the mandate to “create transformational, digital-age instruction that will prepare Houston’s children to succeed in the 21st century and to compete with their peers around the world.”

Find out why Lenny Schad thinks PowerUp is “not about the device,” his critical success factors for successful implementations and why this initiative is just one component of their technology plan. Over to Lenny!

By Lenny Schad


PowerUp will help our high school teachers change how they do instruction in the classroom and better engage our students. PowerUp is not about the device – the technology piece is just the enabler in that process that will change instruction. The focus has not been on the device but on making sure we’re doing everything we can to prepare our teachers, curriculum department, professional development department and our community. A major element of the PowerUp initiative is digital citizenship because we know our kids are living in a digital world that’s not optional anymore – no matter what career path they choose. HISD is making it a focus so when our kids graduate, they understand what it means to live in a digital world and what it means to live responsibly in that world.

Critical success factors for 1:1 or BYOD

It’s interesting because I’ve now implemented a BYOD model and a 1:1 model and there are critical success factors that I’ve used for both. The experiences mirrored each other perfectly.

  1. Pick a strategy and define ‘why.’ Within that strategy you have to define why you’re doing it. Too many times when you go into these implementations, the conversation is all about ‘how.’ There is not instant buy-in and understanding from all of your stakeholder groups and that buy-in is necessary when you’re talking about a cultural change. You have to spend the time defining why you’re doing it and create buy-in from all perspectives. Then you can move into the ‘how you’re going to do it’ phase.
  2. Market the program. Communication is not enough when you’re talking about changing a traditional system – you have to go out and market it. We branded the PowerUp project so that all 282 campuses know what it is even though we’re only rolling it out to high school campuses at first. When you go out into the community, they will be able to tell you what PowerUp is – that’s the magic of getting people to really understand what you’re doing and why.
  3. Leadership. PowerUp is not a technology initiative and if you go into it doing everything as a ‘technology initiative,’ you will find yourself like some of the other big systems out there struggling with their implementations. We led PowerUp from the beginning as a district initiative. All the leaders need to be there from the start – we’ve had curriculum, professional development, campus leadership, instructional technology and technology planning at the project table so we all know why and how decisions were made and collectively understand why each piece is there. We also understand what each individual’s role is in making the overall project a success. Bumps will occur, but what’s going to make HISD different is that when they happen, this group will work together to react and continue to move forward rather than stop the whole project, delay it and assemble the right leadership people at the table.
  4. Expectation management. For a cultural change, the pace of implementation and expectations for yearly progress have to be at the forefront. At HISD we know we have three camps: early adopters, testers and resisters. We agreed during the first year to accept that we will have all three at a campus. You could walk into a campus and see an early adopter teacher doing great things, walk next door and see a teacher testing a little bit with the devices in the classroom and then walk down the hall and see a teacher doing exactly what he or she did last year. And we have to be okay with that. Our focus in our first year is on the early adopters. A lot of school systems out there focus on the resisters, but that’s a waste of time from my perspective, especially during the first year. Those individuals realistically won’t change their minds quickly and it drains the team that’s trying to move the needle. Focusing on the excited people builds excitement on a campus and it’s the early adopters that get everyone going because they have the most influence.

Empowering students and community engagement

Part of our training for staff and students was how you use the device and care for it, but we also spent a lot of time on digital citizenship. It’s a topic that continues to be embedded in instruction at all of our campuses. We’re really making this a part of what occurs at every one of our campuses, not just our PowerUp classes. Digital citizenship starts at the elementary level.

Deployment goes much farther than simply handing kids the devices. There had to be the consideration for how to care for it and proper use as stated above. We have policies for use of the devices both at school and at home, which is another difference between HISD and other projects where kids are made to leave the devices at school. Parents sign off, have some oversight and parental review of what kids are doing with the devices at home. We worked with a lot of community leaders, engaged the police department and even pawn shops about the 18,000 models we were purchasing because theft concerns would inevitably come up during the program.

Early assessment of the deployment process (so far)

From a deployment and readiness perspective, the work we did with teachers over the summer is getting great feedback on surveys we’ve conducted so far. They confirmed that we’d provided plenty of opportunity for training and they had time to get used to the device before the start of school.

Logistically, when you go to a high school with 3,500 kids and hand out a device to every one of them, we don’t want to take away from instruction time so we found a way to get the devices out within a single class period to minimize disruption. Our distribution process was very effective and we’re pleased with that.

We’ve had great participation from our campuses including 80% student participation – we had students pay $25 along with parent signatures to participate in the program and that has been a successful model for us.

1:1 or BYOD alone can’t meet all learning needs

The device for the students is one enabling piece in the classroom but it’s not the whole picture. You have to look at what other support technologies can also enable this change of instruction like interactive displays and other things that are out there. The device alone doesn’t make magic happen – it’s the device plus the change in instruction plus other tools (both software and hardware) that really facilitate a teacher’s change in delivering instruction. It doesn’t matter if your focus is 1:1 or BYOD, SMART’s products and other technologies out there definitely have their place in transforming instructional delivery models.

Are you considering a BYOD or 1:1 initiative? Was Lenny’s advice helpful? Share your thoughts here.

Did you like this? Share it:

12 comments on ““1:1 is Not About the Device” and Other Advice from HISD’s Lenny Schad

  1. matilda on said:

    This sounds like a life changing product. I would like to see how this would d work in a Special Education Class Room. The Idea and how it is put to work sounds fun.

  2. harald wilfer on said:

    this is the way to think about it! i practice “byod” whenever it” s useful and it works great. it starts to get “normal”.

  3. Eli Sabet on said:

    Thank you, Lenny!
    I TOTALLY agree: “The device allone doesn”t make magic happen”

  4. Giovanna on said:

    Really useful tips in case you want to start this new experience!

  5. Michelle Kedzierski on said:

    Very interesting read. We are going 1:1 next year-I will pass this on to my tech department head.

  6. Connie Anderst on said:

    “The device for the students is one enabling piece in the classroom but it’s not the whole picture”. I appreciate this statement and believe it is the starting point when training teachers. Thank you

  7. Boris Berlijn on said:

    Thanks for sharing! At his moment we”re gathering all information about the use of iPad in the class for students and/or to bring their own device for next years classes. Will share this at my school.

  8. Loretta Aguilar on said:

    Great information. Thanks!

  9. Magdalena Zeinhofer on said:

    “The focus has not been on the device but on making sure we’re doing everything we can to prepare our teachers, curriculum department, professional development department and our community.” I would LOVE to hear that from some politicians…

  10. Greg Miller on said:

    Identifying the objective of any endeavor is key. Once defined, the plan for reaching the objective can be developed. Accomplishing plans requires tools and it is important to keep in mind what tools are best suited for reaching an objective. If technology plays a role as a tool – so be it. If, however, technology is selected because it seems more relevant, it is we who have become the tool.

  11. Gretchen on said:

    I really like how you explain the process of going 1:1, with 3 types of people because looking at my district, I”m sure we”d have them too!

  12. Chanda Clifton on said:

    Very interesting article. I am trying to include more I-pad use but in the 6th grade the bring your own is difficult to ask for.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


HTML tags are not allowed.