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Defining 1-to-1 Implementation

February 14, 2013

What does it mean to have 1-to-1 technology in your school or district?  Does it mean that every kid has an iPad or laptop?  Does it mean you no longer have an agenda mate for each student?  Is it about the technology or is it about the instructional practices?  What exactly does 1-to-1 really and truly mean?  Lets attempt to answer that question… adequately, realistically, and appropriately.

I recently read an article online about a superintendent that went and visited a “1-to-1” district (g   The result of the visit – a disillusioned superintendent that saw a first year implementation gone awry. In a nutshell, $1000 notebooks for students.  Given that information, the superintendent’s conclusion is pretty logical.  In fact, the superintendent didn’t say this but might as well have said, “lets spend $2 on some notebooks and pencils, and we can accomplish the same work.”  So is what the superintendent witnessed a poor implementation?  The answer is both yes and no.

1-to-1 is twofold.  

The first part is the technical and equipment piece.  To have 1-to-1, every student must (let me emphasize this piece, MUST) have one device that the student carries, uses, and “owns ” 24/7.  The device doesn’t stay in a locker, a computer lab, is shared, or stays at school.   The device must be wireless, and the student must have wireless access all day at school.  So, unless the infrastructure is in place for wireless throughout your entire school, you don’t have 1-to-1.  And, yes, that was in place in the school system visited by the superintendent above.  Which leads me to the second part….

The second (and most critical piece) is defining the purpose for 1-to-1.  If the purpose or vision is to raise student achievement, your 1-to-1 will fail miserably.  Student achievement is a result or OUTCOME.  Student achievement is NOT the purpose/vision.  So what is the purpose for 1-to-1?

Purpose of 1-to-1 is to move from a teacher-centered and dependent educational system to a student driven and owned learning process.

Let me explain.  In a traditional instructional approach (defined as a setting where students do not have their own device), the teacher controls the content and what students access.  The student is dependent on the teacher. Students do not own the learning, the teacher does.  And in that setting, the teacher is then the most important person in the room… and the onus of the learning remains with the teacher.  Thus, we end up where we are now.  The responsibility of the learning process is disconnected, and students focus on being successful through compliance, not independent thinking.

In a true 1-to-1 approach, the teacher is no longer the keeper of content and controller of learning.  The teacher is responsible for helping students learn how to access content, how to use that content, and how to apply the content. The classroom experience is not about teacher centered exercises, it is about student activity.  Students are not reliant on a teacher to access content.  The student is reliant on their understanding of themselves to access content. Instead of a student waiting on a teacher to present a math topic, for example, the student can access video, collaborate with another student, find an online site that helps the student understand the topic, etc..  The learning process is owned by the student.  The teacher IS important, but not as the keeper of information/knowledge.  Students don’t need schools to access the knowledge. Students need schools to learn HOW to access knowledge, HOW to use the knowledge, and HOW to apply the knowledge.  

In other words, it’s NOT about providing knowledge.  1-to-1 is about how to access, use, and apply knowledge.

The school district visited by the superintendent in the article above had #1 done pretty well, but not much, if any, of #2.  

So the question becomes how realistic is it that in the first year of 1-to-1 implementation that #1’s infrastructure or #2’s instructional practices are well established?  Not very likely.  But, #1 and #2 should be transparent to any visitor.  

What should be seen when visiting a 1-to-1 school or system?

1. Concerted efforts and conversation to make sure wireless infrastructure is being worked on for improved access.
2. A clear vision that classrooms are transitioning from teacher knowledge rooms to student activity rooms focused on accessing, using, and applying knowledge.  
Perfect implementation and perfect preparation are not going to happen.  But conversations and clear vision should be.  These are your starting points for 1-to-1 implementations. 

From → Education

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