Nevada plans to push forward with their state-funded 1-to-1 computing program after receiving positive results from an independent review study of the program’s impact.
At the end of this summer’s legislative session, Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval signed a bill that codified the Nevada Ready 21 program into state law, continuing funding for the program and expanding applications to a new cohort of schools.
The 1-to-1 initiative, which provides all students served by the program with Chromebooks they can use at home and at school, is designed to prepare students with the skills they will need for tech-related jobs in “the New Nevada economy,” said Sandoval, in a statement.
The pilot program budgeted $20 million to reach 19,000 students in grades 5-8, which amounts to 4 percent of the state’s total student enrollment. The new law will continue to fund the program at $20 million and expand opportunities for districts to apply.
Ready 21 puts a laptop in the hands of every student, but the program doesn’t just provide devices. Along with the Chromebooks, every school also received a software toolkit to support digital instruction, including Google’s G-Suite for Education, the learning management system Canvas, and platforms to edit video and audio. The program also funded professional development for teachers, and school and district-level technical and instructional support.
To ensure that students and teachers had the consistent internet access necessary to use Chromebooks in daily lessons, Ready 21 funded the installation of Wi Fi access points to give schools building-wide connectivity.
“While those sound like common-sense steps for folks who are deploying 1-to-1 programs in schools, the history of ed tech is littered with examples of those common sense steps not being taken,” said Doug Levin, the founder and CEO of EdTech Strategies, a consulting firm, in an interview.
Nevada’s 1-to-1 pilot demonstrated a very thoughtful approach, and it appears the state was able to build on some of the “tough lessons” learned from other statewide programs, he added.
State-level 1-to-1 programs are still few and far between, despite their popularity at the district level and the growing presence of laptops, tablets, and other personal computing devices in the classroom. Maine’s 1-to-1 program, launched in 2002, has faced scrutiny amid concerns that instructional practices haven’t caught up to the technology’s abilities, and that students were using laptops for mostly rote tasks.
The report on the impact of Nevada’s pilot program, conducted by California-based education research nonprofit Wexford, Inc., demonstrated that teachers used Chromebooks for more than just word processing: 59 percent of students said they were asked to solve “authentic problems” using technology at least monthly. The findings also highlighted many school- and district-level anecdotal examples of technology igniting students’ creativity and supporting collaboration.
While it’s notable that Nevada has had some success at the state level, said Levin, the pilot cohort may provide skewed results. “They’re seeing changes in school district practice and teacher and student practice, but it’s important to note that these were schools that raised their hand to participate in a select pilot program,” he said.
The pilot program was also operating on a small scale, he said—19,000 students is “an incredibly modest number.”
Numbers may increase as the application process becomes more flexible, said Leslie Wilson, founder and CEO of the One-to-One Institute, a nonprofit advocacy group that helped Nevada plan and design their original pilot program.
The state has been hearing feedback from districts that want to access the parts of the program that would help them implement digital learning—like professional development—without mandating the use of certain hardware or software, said Wilson, in an interview.
“They’ve been listening to people across the state give them feedback, give them input,” she said. “And they take that, and they do something with it.” Districts that didn’t apply the first time around may find the program more appealing now, she said.
As the program continues to grow, Levin thinks it will be increasingly important for the state to demonstrate learning gains and assess how representative early cohorts will be in predicting Ready 21’s future success.
“Based on what I’ve seen in other 1-to-1 programs and rollouts, these are questions clearly that these folks are aware of, and are grappling with, and I think they have a solid foundation to build from,” said Levin. “I just think that scrutiny will grow over time, as it should.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.