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With Larry Ferlazzo

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Teaching Opinion

Response: Guidelines for Successful One-to-One Computer Programs

By Larry Ferlazzo — June 17, 2017 13 min read
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(This is the first post in a two-part series)

The new “question-of-the-week” is:

What are the do’s and don’ts of a successful 1:1 computing program?

One-to-one programs, where all students have laptops or tablets in class, are increasingly in popularity. This two-part series will explore of the do’s and don’ts of a successful one-to-one program.

Today, Anne Jenks, Heather Staker, Larissa Pahomov, and Stephanie Smith Budhai contribute their responses. You can listen to a 10-minute conversation I had with Anne and Heather on my BAM! Radio Show. You can also find a list of, and links to, previous shows here.

You might also be interested in:

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Response From Heather Staker

Heather Staker is the president of Ready to Blend and a spokesperson for student-centered learning. She is the co-author of Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools (San Francisco: Wiley, 2015). She co-founded Brain Chase Productions, which stages online-learning challenges disguised as worldwide treasure hunts for K-12 students:

My contrarian answer to this question is that schools should not do a “one-to-one” computing program. They might, ultimately, decide that each student needs a computer to accomplish her goals. But to raise the flag of “one-to-one” is to set off a technology initiative on the wrong mission. Teachers deserve a more aspirational rallying cry to inspire and articulate the reason for the time and effort that the integration of technology will require.

For example, Rebecca Weissman is a kindergarten teacher at Oakland Public Schools. Her team decided to blend online lessons from Reading Horizons, ST Math, Raz-Kids, and myOn into the kindergarten program. Their goal, however, was not “one-to-one” in itself; rather, they wanted to realize specific gains in reading and math achievement. That smarter rallying cry gave voice to their ambitions and focus to their efforts in ways that a simple call for “one-to-one” could not.

Furthermore, the quest for “one-to-one” may cause schools to implement technology-rich classrooms without pausing to consider whether their students would be better served by blended learning. The distinction between these terms is important. A technology-rich classroom is a traditional classroom layered with digital enhancements such as electronic whiteboards, computing devices, digital textbooks, and internet tools. In contrast, in a blended-learning program, students engage in online lessons that give them at least some control over the time, place, path, and/or pace of their learning. With technology-rich learning, students get traditional instruction enhanced by digital tools. With blended learning, the instruction itself shifts online.

Because the lessons are online, blended learning transforms learning in ways that technology-rich instruction cannot. Online lessons can adapt to a student’s individual pace. They are capable of managing a variety of individual pathways and learning plans, personalized for each student. They offer flexibility around the time and location of learning. These features open the possibility for students to become owners of their learning—to set and manage individual goals and exploit online lessons to accomplish them in their own way. Meanwhile, students in technology-rich classrooms remain locked within the inflexibilities of a standardized, factory-type model.

Schools that want to capitalize on the unique benefits of blended learning should not begin with a one-to-one program. Instead, they should begin by articulating their rallying cry, forming the right team to lead the effort, and doing the hard work of redesigning the student and teacher experience. This new design should represent a departure, in all the best ways, from a traditional classroom.

With the design complete, the team can then consider how many devices it will need to implement it. In some cases, such as with a Flex model or Flipped Classroom, a one-to-one device strategy may indeed be necessary. In others, such as a Station Rotation or Lab Rotation, it is not. Upon reflection, teams that are careful to create the upfront vision are likely to find that this vision requires a different device strategy than they might have assumed if they had rushed into things with an initial call for “one-to-one.”

Response From Anne Jenks

Anne Jenks is the principal of the McKinna Elementary School in Oxnard, CA. She is a Leading Edge Certified Teacher and the 2015 CUE Site Leader of the Year:

Our K-5 elementary school has nearly 800 students and each child has an iPad at their disposal 24 hours a day during the school year including vacations. The devices are used to enhance instruction in all subject areas, and our school’s mission is to move all students from consumers to creators of digital content. This didn’t take place overnight. It was a journey that began in 2010 with two carts equipped with class sets of iPod Touch devices and evolved into a 1:1 iPad Program.

There were several factors that contributed to our successful program, but the most important was buy-in. When we began our pilot, our goal was manageable. We wanted to improve reading fluency and see how that might affect other areas of student achievement. We modeled our pilot after a successful program, iRead, being used by Escondido Union School District. Our districts had similar demographics, and we thought that their system might work for our students.

Before we began the pilot, I had teachers at different grade levels travel to Escondido to see their program in action. They felt that it was worth a try, and our Leadership Team agreed to spend the money to purchase two carts and class sets of iPod Touch devices. These carts were kept in the office and teachers participating in the pilot could check them out during the day. We did pre- and post-testing on reading fluency and found that students had gained substantially with many doubling their fluency. This carried over to improved achievement on the CST in Language Arts. The following year, more teachers wanted to try using the devices and the results were the same. Students’ reading fluency improved and test scores went up. By the third year, everyone in the school was using the iPods and there were carts in all classrooms.

Once the carts became standard equipment, teachers started experimenting with applications that students could use in various subject areas. We also purchased e-books that students could access on the devces. We invited people from the district office to see what we were doing and gained their support. We publicized our program on our website and through bulletins sent home. The program continued to evolve and staff, students and parents were on board.

After getting buy-in from teachers, students, district personnel and parents the second most important thing to do is provide adequate support for teachers. Some will be ready to dive right in and others will not feel secure. We established Tech Lead Teachers at every grade level to support and coach teachers who were less comfortable with the technology. During staff meetings, teachers discussed their favorite applications and explained how they were using them in their classrooms. Projects were shared during grade level team meetings and collaboration increased.

Our Leadership Team decided that the larger format that iPads provided would be a better fit for younger children developmentally, and we began buying iPads for the K-2. Students. In 2013, our efforts were recognized, and we were named an Apple Distinguished Program. Shortly after this, the district targeted bond funds for a district-wide 1:1 program. Through those funds, McKinna students on all grade levels have iPads and the ability to access and create digital content.

Response From Larissa Pahomov

Larissa Pahomov teaches English and Journalism at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, an inquiry-driven, project-based, 1:1 laptop school considered to be one of the pioneers of the School 2.0 movement. She is the author of Authentic Learning in the Digital Age: Engaging Students through Inquiry (ASCD, 2014). Connect with her on Twitter @LPahomov:

I am now in my eighth year teaching at Science Leadership Academy, a public high school in Philadelphia that has had a 1:1 laptop program since opening its doors in 2005. Here are a few things weve learned over the years about how to maximize the use of student machines:

Dont just replace your old resources with electronic versions. You know whats just as boring as a worksheet? An electronic worksheet. Computers should not just be a repository for what already existed in your class—they can be a gateway to new ways of constructing knowledge. Explore those before the school year begins. Your students will thank you.

Do adopt online management programs school wide. Students already have to grapple with the different class rules, academic expectations, and grading policies of each teacher—dont complicate things more by each adopting your own online learning management system or grading program. If you are going 1:1 school-wide, use the previous year to research and test-drive different systems to determine what works best for your teachers and students both.

Dont make laptops the default setting in class. It can be tempting to have students get on their machines as soon as the bell rings—and sometimes, if theyre working on an extended project or assignment, an uninterrupted work period can be useful. However, if kids are looking at their screens, then theyre not looking at each other. By building in atech-freeroutine at the start of class, you make sure that you preserve the class community, and students engage with the class as a whole before they go off on their individualized paths.

Do give students options. When its time for students to create a final project, let them explore the digital presentation medium that they think is more effective—or let them create a physical product, if that suits them. Keep printers functioning and stocked with papers so that if students need to review work on paper, they can. Let the digital devices be a door to a wide variety of options, but dont close that door behind them.

Dont start your planning with the technology. Especially when you first have the devices, it can be tempting to find the snazziest, most innovative tool first, and then build the lesson around that tool. Not only does this wed your work to what is often proprietary software, it puts the learning second when it should be first. As with all thoughtful planning, begin with the end in mind, and then match the tools to the essential understandings and skills you want your students to grasp.

Do have a protocol for when technical difficulties arise. Some days, the internet will go out. Other days, your machine will crash. On top of that, with a 1:1 program, there will always be a student or two whose machine is out for repairs (or they forgot it at home). With a clear protocol for these situations, students wont get stuck, theyll get busy by working with a classmate or getting a paper copy of the activity.

Response From Stephanie Smith Budhai

Stephanie Smith Budhai is co-author of Teaching the 4Cs with Technology: How do I use 21st century tools to teach 21st century skills? (ASCD), along with Laura Taddei. She is an assistant professor and director of graduate education at Neumann University, holding a PhD in Learning Technologies and certification as a K-12 Instructional Technology Specialist from the Pennsylvania Department of Education:

One-to-one computing program will continue to be an integral part of the 21st century classroom. And while this topic has been discussed over the years, there are still schools that are just starting to create one-to-one programs. It is important to note that each school district and schools will set up their one-to-one programs based on their individual needs and resources, however, there are overarching dos and don’ts that should be considered.

Do have an acceptable use policy to create guidelines, rules, and a framework for students and families to follow. Acceptable use policies allow schools to facilitate computing and tablet usage that is specific to the values and recourses available at the school. Without an acceptable use policy, it is difficult to maintain transparency and order in how students use the devices.

Don’t give computing equipment to student without having them and their parental guardian sign a contract taking full responsibility for any damage to the device. Even if you have insurance for the device, families are more likely to take care of the device when they feel they are financially responsible for its upkeep. It is extremely important to have a signed contract in place confirming this in case the device is destroyed or not returned.

Do train students and teachers on fair use policies and related laws. Any operating school owned devices must be aware of how to use digital content legally. Building this understanding in users will help avoid lawsuits and provide students with a comprehensive digital and information literacy level.

Do use the laptops and/or tablets in a purposeful manner. Technology is at the crux of 21st century teaching and learning. Everyone is using technology in school work and for play. Just technology is ubiquitous, does not mean that it should always be used. Have teachers used the SAMR model when integrating technology into learning activities which will help them substitute, augment, modify, or redefinition technology usage accordingly.

Thanks to Anne, Heather, Larissa, and Stephanie for their contributions!

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