George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Have you ever wondered what it really means to transform your district, school, or classroom to a 1:1 environment? It is a term we hear a lot about, but not all can see it or experience it. With the takeoff of the iPad and its successor, the iPad 2, the education world is abuzz with the idea of moving towards a 1:1 environment. But is it practical? For some, it is a dream, a wish; for others, it is slowly becoming a reality. So what does a 1:1 environment look like? How will the students and teachers react? Is it the right direction to go?

Step 1: Define the Goals of your 1:1 Program

A 1:1 environment should be the goal of every learning institution; however, this is not about devices, it's about access. I imagine every school superintendent, principal, and teacher would agree that it is in their best interest to provide their students with the best access to the most current, scholarly information available. There is no doubt that this idea is embedded in every school's mission statement. So let's dig a little into the question of what a 1:1 environment looks like.

Step 2: Define the Role of the Device in Your Classroom

Some may argue that a 1:1 environment should focus solely on the device; however, this is not the case. While selecting the right device for your school is essential, making it the focal point is not the best way to deliver it. The device is simply a device. It is not coming to take over your classroom, nor is it replacing your quality teaching. Teachers must welcome the device like their predecessors welcomed the chalk board, the calculator and the CD-ROM. They must understand that this device will give their students a better opportunity to share, connect, and seek out information. This device will not be a distraction, but another arm of the classroom.

Step 3: Model How to Harness the Device's Power

Once you have welcomed the device and take the time to understand it, you must model for your students how to harness its power. If you are still a bit unsure, you can seek out a student who is skilled on the device or your Instructional Technology Coach. If neither of these options is a reality for you, then find a colleague(s) who understands the device and how it can work for you in your classroom. Demand good professional development that not only presents the device's functionality, but displays examples of it in use. This professional development should also be tiered by experience level. Differentiating your professional development will create happy teachers and increase the acceptance of the device or tool being displayed. Above all, knowing the basic functionality of any device, whether it be a TI-84 calculator or a piece of chalk, will ease your worries going forward.

Step 4: Put It Away When Appropriate

A 1:1 environment will not always have a device on display. There will be times when your best lesson is done in the absence of technology. Similarly, your students shouldn't become attached to the device, but understand when it should be accessed. Administrators should not demand that device always be used as well. Allow your teachers some learning and growing time as they begin to integrate the device. Continually follow up with them and ask them how they have incorporated technology and if they need any further professional development. The goal should never be to rush technology integration, but segue but creating clear objectives and goals for each teacher.

Step 5: Teach, Model and Support Information Literacy

Students should understand that a device is an avenue for learning and discovery, but it cannot replace their own ability to think critically and question. The device will give them access to a plethora of information and potential answers, but it will not always give them a clear course to follow. Also, as teachers, we must never assume that our students know the best way around technology. While some of our students could proudly display the badge of "Digital Native," many will need coaching. Simply accessing Google or finding the hilarious video of the singing Cat does not make you a digital native.

Filtering information and knowing the most efficient route to a solution is an invaluable skill. While students have access to more information than any generation, their ability to filter is much more challenging. Once your students understand that it is time to access the device, they must begin to filter through a vast field of weeds. Students must realize that Google is a great start, but not always going to provide them the best direction. The ability to call upon key search terms and look beyond Google are two skills every student must learn.

A 1:1 environment should not be intimidating. It should be our ally in the daily task to provide our students with the best access to information and promote learning. There is no denying the rapid pace of our world and its ever-changing economy. It is our responsibility as educators - at every level - to prepare our students for this environment. The environment will not adapt to them, they must adapt to the demand of the market. A 1:1 environment is simply a start.

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Topher Mueller's picture
Topher Mueller
Director of Education Technology PK-8

One could write a series of books for planning. I haven't helped start one, but three years ago was brought in as laptop coordinator and tech coach (Stevenson PK-8,

One of my biggest concerns was if I'd be able to manage both the technology teaching, coaching, and infrastructure in a 1:1 system. I don't imagine it's anything like this at the beginning, but it's enlightening how well the students know to take care of their systems. Though "hiccups" are unavoidable, so the school had me trained in laptop repair. In our case, the students are required to have a laptop before entering 6th Grade. In Grades 2-5, they have Macbooks in carts that stay in-house, and in K-1 they (next year) have iPads.

Andrew, coming from someone that was thrown into the unnerving world of 1:1 but found it manageable and extraordinarily helpful for the students, you hit some very important points. The device does need to be thought of as a *resource*. It really is the idea of 1:1 after all: the beauty of the whole thing is that this wealth of information is available at their fingertips. They can reflect and report on any findings in so many ways - which is also helpful for any struggling students. They can summarize a concept via video... audio... voicethread... inspiration...

After all, isn't this what they will experience later in academic life and careers - to have these resources available? To be expected to apply them? This is ultimately the most appropriate time for students to learn how to navigate and use that so-called wealth of information (vast field of weeds was a great/better way to put it).

Aside from the appropriate infrastructure (which laptop to buy for students, or to have them purchase, how to arrange wireless and filters, and so forth) - it's so critical to have the far-reaching goals in place. It's amazing when you see it in-place: with the right direction, students practice the ICT and 21st Century Skills you hope for them to learn right there in the core classes. Not in a computer lab - not in technology class - but throughout the curricula. Only possible with teacher buy in and a over-reaching mission in place.

There are loads of resources out there on the topic, including some handbooks and articles from the schools that have implemented 1:1. Alan November is a huge advocate and great resource.

Aimee Kaniper's picture
Aimee Kaniper
Eighth Grade American History Teacher

We have been working on implementing a successful 1:1 program in our county for the past two years. Our students are being phased into the program during their seventh grade year and will participate until they graduate. We have received a lot of training on best practices for using technology in education as well as being granted access to many online sources to use in our classrooms. However, it seems as though our students are underwhelmed by the idea of using laptops in their classes. They are so used to using technology on a daily basis that be giving them a laptop, they see it as "one more thing to carry during the school day." We need more training on how to use technology effectively and meaningfully. This might allow the students to see technology and its use in the classroom in a different light.

Darren's picture

This is a very useful and highly sensible overview of implementing 1 to 1. We've had a year of iPad 1 to 1 with our 6th form, and are now looking at whole school bring a browser. It's always good to read something rooted in practicality and common sense. Thanks for sharing.

nadan's picture

So what does a 1:1 environment look like? How will the students and teachers react? Is it the right direction to go? So what does a 1:1 environment look like? How will the students and teachers react? Is it the right direction to go?

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