1:1 Implementation

What the Research Says about 1:1

March 26, 2015

As the principal of a school that implemented a one to one computer program, it has become a fascinating topic to discuss, examine, and research. It's fascinating because there is simply not the volume of information on this topic that most educators would assume. However, the summary outlined below has helped my associates and I have a better understanding of what themes have emerged.

All public schools are in a constant cycle of improvement for the betterment of their students. This frequent challenge can be both exciting and stressful for communities as schools’ staffs are continually asked to do more and more while resources seem to become consistently sparser. However, this past decade has seen enthusiastic determinations within the educational field that having a school implement a one to one technological tool is the essential means towards the quest for all students to become ready and able to take on 21st century learning expectations. This research is meant to decipher between subjective rhetoric and objective evidence on the impact this educational implementation truly has.

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There has been a pseudo acceptance and criticism that evolving towards a one to one computer implementation is essentially the “silver bullet” that will fix all issues within a school building. Advocates will sometimes argue that when a school takes this direction it will result in immediate and substantial positive results, however, studies simply show that this may not be true. Two states employed a substantial and significant one to one initiative that did demonstrate the results that most would have assumed. The Main Learning and Technology Initiative spent almost $120 million, but research has shown that not all schools had implemented the program to the same degree and when 8th grade state assessment scores were examined no significant increase had been demonstrated (Weston & Bain, 2010)

Another significant one to one endeavor was the Texas Technology Immersion Pilot. This involved students in 22 schools receiving computers while the states invested nearly $14.5 million with a four year immersion goal. However, the same inconsistent findings were demonstrated similar to the implementation within the state of Maine. At the end of the fourth year, students’ access and usage of computers were below intended goals. Most concerning though, even with the significant financial investment there was still also no evidence that student performance or satisfaction of school had increased (Weston & Bain, 2010).

The above research makes the safe assumption that many educators assumed that just enabling a ubiquitous access to technology would lead towards positive results. However, the findings from Bebell and O’Dwyer (2010) pointed towards more positive outcomes when schools focus on more training and immersion rather than just implementation with one to one initiatives. In their study, they found that 7th grade students within the second year of implementation saw significant gains on the state assessments for ELA when compared to schools that had not provided one to one computer access to their students. The finding from this research was intriguing because the results were associated with the strength of the implementation rather than simply the implementation itself (Bebell & O’Dwyer, 2010).

It then becomes an interesting query on why some studies point towards such positive results as a result of an implementation of a one to one computer endeavor and other studies simply do not. Research that was done within the Ozarks Educational Research Initiative aims to address this question. The background behind this study is not much different than anything mentioned above. It is another program to add computer access to all students within 15 school districts within the state of Missouri, with the collaboration of both the state and local University. However, this research utilized a systematic review of prior studies on this topic to hopefully pin point particular criteria that would support the success of such an implementation (Sell, Cornelius-White, Chang, McLean, & Roworth, 2012).

The variety of best practices and approaches that are discussed are immense, but one item that correlates to the findings of Bebell and O’Dwyer (2010) relates to the professional development of staff. They found through their meta-synthesis analysis that professional development is not only essential but that it should not also just focus on new instructional skills. Instead, it should address teacher beliefs about instruction itself. The research found that by taking this approach teachers’ attitudes towards teaching becomes learner centered and they are more apt to become facilitators utilizing technology. However, in turn there was not sufficient evidence to find a correlation of increasing teachers’ computer literacy towards the success of a one to one computer program, and again, there were mixed results on increases in academic achievement (Sell, Cornelius-White, Chang, McLean, & Roworth, 2012).

Fortunately, there does seem to at least be a few emerging themes within this topic. Different research studies point towards varying amounts of success or increases within the realm of academic achievement. Another theme is the significance of professional development, and more importantly, how it is approached when implementing computers to each student within a school. The success of a one to one initiative is dependent upon so many characteristics and approaches, and not merely creating the infrastructure and providing the resource (Lemke, Coughlin, & Reifsneider, 2009).

Each of the research articles either directly or indirectly discussed the existence of a subjective educational belief that giving each child in a school a computer will not only increase academic achievement, but it is becoming an absolute necessity due to the nature of an ever changing technological society. Professor Steven Higgins, ZhiMin Xiao, and Maria Katsipataki of Durham University (2012) speak of several fallacies about technology usage within public education. However, one such myth seems to have a direct correlation to the summary of information found within this paper. They speak of a generally accepted myth that children of this day and age learning differently than in past generations and that computers are somehow necessary to achieve academic success. There are countless examples of varying levels of academic success within schools implementing one to one computer usage programs, and because of this it seems very safe to come to the conclusion that simply giving a child a computer will not automatically guarantee academic improvement (Higgins, Xiao, & Katsipataki, 2012). Ultimately, a piece of technology is a resource and how that technology is embraced and utilized by the teachers themselves is the ultimate variable of success.


Bebell, D. & O’Dwyer, L.M. (2010). Educational outcomes and research from 1:1 computing settings. Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment, 9(1). 5-13.

Higgins, S., Xiao, X., & Katsipataki, M. (2012). The impact of digital technology on learning: a summary for the education endowment foundation. Education Endowment Foundation.Retrieved from https://larrycuban.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/the_impact_of_digital_technologies_on_learning_full_report_2012.pdf

Lemke, C., Coughlin, E., & Reifsneider, D. (2009). Technology in schools: What the research says: An update. Culver City, CA: Commissioned by Cisco.

Sell, G., Cornelius-White, J., Chang, C., McLean, A., & Roworth., W. (2012). A met-synthesis of research on 1:1 technology initiatives in k-12 education. Ozarks Educational Research Initiative. Retrieved from http://education.missouristate.edu/assets/clse/Final_Report_of_One-to-One_Meta-Synthesis__April_2012_.pdf

Weston, M.E. & Bain, A. (2010). The end of techno-critique: the naked truth about 1:1 laptop initiatives and educational change. Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment, 9(6). 5-10.

This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we've preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer's own.