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Reflecting on One-to-One Programs

Mary Beth Hertz

HS Art/Tech Teacher in Philadelphia, PA
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More and more schools are bringing laptops, netbooks, and other mobile computing devices into the classroom. Here are some thoughts on these initiatives.

1) Common Understanding
What does 1:1 mean in your school? Does it mean that each student has a mobile device at his or her fingertips, or does it mean that each student has the possibility of using a device? (Hint: One of these is not truly 1:1.)

2) Staff Competence
How well-versed is your staff with these devices? Have they been given adequate time to tinker with the tools before putting them in the hands of their students?

3) Infrastructure
Can your infrastructure handle the increase in devices? Do you have a plan in place to support the addition of these devices to your wireless network?

4) Mobile Device Policy
Do you have a mobile device policy in place? If so, have your students and their parents read and agreed on this policy?

5) Theft or Other Problems
What will you do if a device is lost, stolen or destroyed?

6) Ongoing Support
How will you continue to support your staff throughout the year with incorporating mobile devices into their classrooms in an efficient, meaningful and productive way?

Making 1:1 Work for You

These are just a few of the considerations you should be making when looking at introducing a 1:1 environment at your school or in your classroom. Remember, 1:1 can mean iPads, iPods, netbooks, laptops, e-readers or any other mobile learning device. You need to take a look at your needs and your resources before making a decision on what kind of device to bring into the learning environment.

Following a fad, or copying what the school down the street did will no doubt lead you down a path toward frustration and wasted resources. First, assess the learning environment. Why will these devices help enhance or improve instruction? If you are going school-wide with devices, ask the teachers for input as well as the families and students.

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Comments (9) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Janet Moeller-Abercrombie's picture
Janet Moeller-Abercrombie
International Educator, Certified by the NBPTS | Educational Leader, Licens

my school bought one cart of computers. Each of the nine teachers in our grade level had the cart for one month.

This helped in three ways:
1. Teachers could experiment with the use of the machines for at least 20 days. They could start off slow but have a bank of ideas to kick-of computer use in the subsequent year.
2. When the carts moved from one classroom to another, teachers missed the technology. They realized that their teaching had changed, just in the first month. They began collecting ideas for use in the subsequent year.
3. Those who started with the computers could share examplar projects/lessons that the next teacher could use.

The "pilot" month really helped jump-start the full 1:1 program.

Janet |

Teresia's picture
K-12 Technology Specialist from Otisville, NY

It's really important to take a look at assessment when implementing a 1:1 program. Assessment strategies should be put in place before a 1:1 program is established so that student progress, attitude toward learning, and a variety of other criteria can be measured to prove a new program's efficacy. In this data driven world, it's important to provide concrete evidence that will help fortify the argument for investing limited resources in technology.

A "real life" documentation of 1:1 program:

Jay Clark's picture
Jay Clark
Principal - Van Buren Middle School (Van Buren, OH)

We implemented a 1:1 program last school year. After wishing for a 1:1 program and visiting schools with successful 1:1, we came across an amazing deal on hardware and jumped in. A few pieces of advice that we learned both from our visits to other schools and over last school year:
Have parent education - when used appropriately, a 1:1 program can really change the school culture and you'll want parents on-board and understanding the program.
Just because the majority of our kids are 'digital natives' doesn't mean they know how to do everything. Be prepared - our sixth graders are going through a 'tech bootcamp' this year. One of those things we learned last year.
How are you going to deal with broken equipment? This didn't seem to be an issue for the schools we visited (for whatever reason), but we had some cracked displays last year. We learned our lesson and purchased accidental damage/loss insurance through student fees this year.
Get it in the teachers' hands. We had our machines the spring prior to beginning the program, so each teacher took one home for the summer.
While the hardware is important, for us, a web portal or CMS is essential. We use Moodle heavily, but if we didn't have that, I can imagine less use overall by teachers and more confusion - kids having different logins to teacher web pages, issues with privacy, etc. If you don't have Moodle, Blackboard, Google Apps, etc., secure that along with the hardware. Many of our teachers had a good grip on Moodle beforehand, but we also had individual/small group trainings the summer before our program began as well.

Hopefully this helps! Now we're wrestling with the replacement/new device question - what's the expected lifespan of a netbook computer while in the hands of middle school students for 9 months a year and how do we set up a replacement schedule? Any ideas/insight would be terrific!

Jay Clark

John Norton's picture
John Norton
Education writer, Founder & co-editor of

Mary Beth:

Mike Akin, superintendent of Piedmont City, a small-town district in Alabama, was named one of AASA's top tech savvy administrators last year. I love Piedmont's story -- it's not only about schools going 1:1 but the impact that decision is having on an entire community. I interviewed Akin last fall for the Alabama Best Practices Center website:

My favorite snippet: "The goal of MPower Piedmont is to transform our community. We are seeing that begin to happen. It is really a source of pride for our community. We have over 500 homes in our town that have a computer for the first time due to this initiative."

That's about half the homes in this little rural community.

John Pytel's picture
John Pytel
Co-Founder of SoapBox

It's great to see more and more schools implement 1:1 programs or adopt BYOT policies. Incorporating these devices in the classroom can really improve student engagement and learning exponentially. If anyone is interested in a simple tool designed to leverage the power of 1:1, you can sign up for a free beta account with SoapBox.

Jenny's picture

I firmly support the idea a 1:1 school, but I can see that it comes with its snags. There are many practices, ideas, and tools to consider before beginning a movement such as this. There is much to be gained in a school-wide effort to put portable technology devices beyond the cell phone at the fingertips of our students. I have recently come in to the ownership of an Ipad 2, and by that I mean I won it at a banquet. I had no idea what to do with it. I imagine this is a little like what some of our teachers would feel like without any training on the concept of 1:1 school. As time has moved on and I have had time to work with and play with my Ipad 2 I have learned a few things, and my nephew helped me find some different things to do with it too. This is how I envision the transformation of a school into a 1:1 school. I hope I am correct in this vision, because I hope that someday my school and perhaps district will transform and welcome the impact this will have on student learning and engagment.

Mary Beth Hertz's picture
Mary Beth Hertz
HS Art/Tech Teacher in Philadelphia, PA

It's a shame that teachers are thrown in with the wolves when it comes to tech in their classrooms. Teachers should be provided with any tech (such as laptops) the summer before so they can become accustomed to it--along with some useful training.

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