Voices for Introverts: A 1:1 Success

Being an introvert is not a bad thing.  Recently there is a wave of writing discussing how schools are failing to meet the needs of introverts by creating classrooms that demand that students become extroverts in order to succeed.

These are the student who will share a great idea with you privately after class when the crowd has dissipated.  These are the students who write the most amazing and insightful papers but during debates keep that insight to themselves.  I have spent my entire career trying to find ways to make them feel comfortable enough to risk sharing in my class.   In reality I have never found a way to hear from regularly.  So they sit silently, all of their talents and gifts, their thoughts and ideas, present but unheard.

from "Calvin and Hobbes" by Bill Watterson
from “Calvin and Hobbes” by Bill Watterson

Today, if I were to lose the devices (iPads) that that my students have I would mourn the loss not of the technology but of the voices that my students have gained through having them.

One student, who I will call Ellis, (pseudonym) has never once voluntarily spoken in my class.  Were this another year I would think that she had nothing to say. I would not even have pegged her as someone who is interested in politics, but because my class used a Today’s Meet room to discuss the Presidential debates I got to hear her share opinions and interact with her classmates.  With electronic communication a person has the chance to see their words in writing before they share them. They can hone their thoughts more effectively then when put on the spot in class.  And share she did, more effectively than any other student who joined the chat that night.

Unfortunately she is not in a 1:1 class.  It is hard to replicate that moment and the conditions that let her find her voice and support her convictions.

If I take a good look at my 1:1 classes I can name many students who I would call leaders. Some are extroverts but more than a few are like Ellis; intelligent and inspiring introverts who under the right conditions have something to offer to the whole class.  They raise questions about films and leave me stunned with their thoughtful advice to classmates on blogs.  I can think back to past students who could have offered similar contributions, but lacked the tools and opportunities to do so. They had voices too.

You probably know a student like Ellis. Can you give them a voice? Can you help them speak louder or let more people hear them? We should strive to raise their voices above a whisper.


1:1 Choices Made Simple

You won’t be able to do it all.  You have limited time and therefore you will have to decide what you value.  Identify what you value most and focus your efforts there.   

Schools are going to have to choose.  It will not be easy and you better not try to rush the process.  1:1 devices are a trendy topic. Ultimately they force schools to make many hard choices.  You can read a lifetime’s worth of articles on every aspect of 1:1 but they will all eventually return you to the idea above.


The first few weeks of my 1:1 pilot were a very stressful time.  I was adding volumes of skills, daily student choice and doing iPad set up regularly.  I felt torn between the tech and the content. Daily I would drive home and feel that I had failed on some level.  My school district did not tell us “you must do this!!” and much was left to the individual teachers. (Which I believe is ultimately a good thing for a pilot to do.)

Finally reality slapped me. I realized that the curriculum can only expand so much if the time available does not expand with it.  I needed a focus.  I needed to decide what was important and make some decisions.  I looked at the critical learning standards for my course, focused on how the technology could add to their development and started to refocus.  This was how I could best focus my efforts, my time, and the technology towards the priorities of my school and my district. It is my divining rod as to what is essential and what can be cut. 

If a whole school is to succeed in going 1:1 these hard decisions will need to be framed for the teachers in advance.  Leaders will need to identify and communicate the values that should be driving teacher choices.

“We believe (X) is important for our students. Use this technology to achieve that aim.”

So find your school’s goal, your purpose, your “True North”. Make it clear to everyone. Then pursue it with all your might.