1-to-1: Is it For Your School?

April 16, 2013

Blended learning
Mobile devices
Mobile learning
1:1 computing

What’s all the fuss about 1-to-1 (one-to-one learning)?

Why are schools going to lengths to purchase individual devices for students? How can a 1-to-1 learning program benefit schools? Is it worth the cost or how can the cost be avoided? These are some important questions when considering a 1-to-1 learning program for your school.

1-to-1 represents a 21st century classroom. 1-to-1 is about personalized learning. It’s about convenience, communication, and control. For digital natives, it’s about meeting the needs and expectations of a generation who take technology for granted. When students have their own devices, they can more easily use technology for research, communication, data collection, content production, productivity, and entertainment – everything that most adults use in their daily professional and personal lives – and that many students are accustomed to outside of school.

However, neat and cool tools should not be the reason or the focus on a laptop initiative. It is not about the devices! Avoid a one-to-one initiatives becoming a “$1,000 pencil” program. Adding more digital devices to the classroom without a fundamental shift in culture of teaching and learning will not lead to significant improvement. Clear goals across the curriculum must be articulated from the outset.

I really like this phrase that I came across recently in Why Schools Must Move Beyond One-to-One Computing (Alan November, Feb. 2013), instead of using “one-to-one” refer to “one-to-world.”  According to Alan November, this one-word change takes us beyond the focus on the technology to why we are making the investment in the first place.

If you’re considering a shift, below are some suggestions.

1-to-1 Tips (adapted from 1to1Schools.net)

  1. Establish a leadership team. It’s about the people – educators, students, parents, and administrators. How can all voices be heard? For example, how will students and teachers benefit from a 1-to-1 program? How will parents support it?
  2. Identify reasons for 1-to-1. Align your program with your school’s mission, culture, and goals. Create a clear vision based on student learning.
  3. Empower students by engaging them in the planning of the program.
  4. You cannot over communicate or over plan!
  5. An online learning community is vital. Everyone should be able to access it.
  6. Personalized learning is what 1-to-1 is all about - be sure to be explicit with this in your plan.
  7. Use parents as partners.
  8. Visit other schools.
  9. Try a pilot program. Select 1-to-1 pioneers in your school to try out the program.
  10. Create and deliver professional development. These should be done prior to launching your initiative and should not focus on technology use, but rather the paradigm shift.

1-to-1 Models
Irving Independent School District

Kent School District

Maine Learning Technology Initiative


Many schools are forgoing the 1-to-1 concept in favor of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) where students bring their own smartphones, tablets, laptops, or even video game players t class. This approach allows for easy access to learning apps and collaborative tools and saves money for schools.

The fact that students in the same classroom can use many different devices is not a handicap because they are all using the same websites and tools on the Internet. Lenny Shad, who started a BYOD program in Houston Independent School District says, “My message: It shouldn’t be ‘if’ we do it, it should be ‘when’ we do it.” “I don’t know how districts can’t look at this model.” “On a smartphone, there are no limitations. This is the world they live in and we’re bringing it into the classroom.”