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How to make one-to-one computing a success


“It’s important that you define the goals” of a one-to-one computing program early in the process, said Lenovo’s Sam Morris. 

What are the keys to success in rolling out a one-to-one computing program in schools? “Before you look for keys, you need to have a car,” tweeted Sam Morris, education solutions manager for Lenovo. In this case, the car is a sound plan for what you’re trying to accomplish by giving every student a computing device.

“I think it’s important that you define the goals for 1:1 early in the process of establishing the initiative,” Morris explained.

Morris was leading a Feb. 21 Twitter chat hour on one-to-one computing along with eSchool News Editor-in-Chief Dennis Pierce. The conversation, which took place entirely on the micro-blogging service Twitter, explored strategies for making one-to-one computing work effectively in schools.

During the hour-long chat, readers were encouraged to submit questions and weigh in with responses of their own. The discussion ranged from whether “bring your own device” (BYOD) programs were a good idea, to whether laptops or handheld devices were more effective. It also touched on how to ensure effective teaching and learning with mobile technology.

Reader @vANguyenC17 asked if the trend among schools was to let students bring their own devices. “We’re seeing BYOD taking off in schools,” Pierce tweeted, referring to this recent eSchool News story.

Morris, who oversaw a one-to-one tablet computing program as the instructional technology director for Cary Academy in North Carolina before joining Lenovo, added: “I certainly think there is a lot of conversation around BYOD … but these introduce challenges as well.” He explained: “I think you need to define the common technology needs and goals and determine if BYOD can meet those needs.”

For more news about one-to-one computing in schools, see:

‘Mass Customized Learning’: The key to education reform?

Tips and success stories for effective mobile learning

Study reveals factors in ed-tech success

One-to-one computing programs only as effective as their teachers

A key to making BYOD programs work is to “make sure [your] tech infrastructure supports all platforms,” @vANguyenC17 noted.

“The biggest concern I have [with BYOD] is ensuring equitable access. We exacerbate the gap when we don’t manage BYOD well,” tweeted Deb Socia.

“I agree completely that BYOD can increase the digital gap,” Morris responded. “Or it can force all users to the lowest common denominator.”

“Good point,” tweeted Pierce. “Schools should have devices for kids who don’t have their own… and use web resources that aren’t platform dependent.”

“Kids who BYOD also have them to use at home. This would seem to be a distinct advantage over those who use the schools,” wrote @Lucasn_19.

“Yes. We should be enabling access to technology and resources beyond the classrooms,” Morris replied.

“What differences, if any, do you see between mobile-based 1:1 and full laptop-based 1:1?” asked Chris Dede, Timothy Wirth Professor of Learning Technologies at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.

“I am concerned about limiting students with mobile devices, [especially with subjects like] programming, robotics, interactive math,” Morris wrote.

“We have 1st hand experience with 1:1 comparing 1 year of laptop (Mac) and 1 year of iPads,” tweeted @vANguyenC17. “All three 3rd grade teachers strongly favor going back to Macbooks.”

“Interesting,” Pierce responded. “Was that [because] they had more capabilities?”

“Laptops allow much more productivity and creating; iPads are limited in apps’ ability to create, limited features in Word,” @vANguyenC17 wrote.

“The device should match the needs of the students,” Socia tweeted. “Laptops work well for many, tablets better for some.” She explained that for students with disabilities, tablets might be preferable.

“Yes—the device should be paired with the learning outcomes,” Morris replied.

“I worry educators are buying low-end devices without realizing how much they cannot do, like most of what I develop,” Dede noted.

For more news about one-to-one computing in schools, see:

‘Mass Customized Learning’: The key to education reform?

Tips and success stories for effective mobile learning

Study reveals factors in ed-tech success

One-to-one computing programs only as effective as their teachers

Besides having a sound plan—one that puts the desired learning outcomes first, and uses these to define the technology that will be used—@HatchEarlyChild asked what the most important factor was for ensuring success with one-to-one computing.

“Teaching practices [are] most important, I’d say,” Pierce responded, pointing to research suggesting that one-to-one computing programs are only as effective as their teachers.

“Significant, ongoing [professional development] is necessary, but not just around tech,” Morris agreed. “Early PD should focus on transforming learning.” He added: “Just as with our kids, the PD learning should be differentiated, collaborative, authentic, and not just skills [-based].”

Pointing out the challenge of delivering this kind of intensive training, @mdmccarty9 joked that the “three biggest constraints to PD [are] time, time, and time. Next is money.”

“I would agree,” Pierce tweeted. “Must find ways to build [this] into [the] school day [without] adding more burden—or wasting teachers’ time.”

“We can find time if we value it!” Socia chimed in. “Grow in-house experts—maybe give them stipends. Get creative!”

The conversation also turned to how schools can measure the success of a one-to-one computing initiative.

“I think if any school is planning such an initiative, outcomes should be defined, and they must be measured,” Morris said. “That said, most of the important measurements do not involve bubble sheets and high-stakes testing.”

“We did not do 1:1 to improve outcomes but to create a relevant/authentic learning environment using the tools of students’ future,” tweeted Darryl Loy.

“That’s an outcome, too. We need to move beyond thinking in terms of test scores, and also measure thinking skills,” Pierce concluded.

To follow the chat thread, and keep the discussion going, search for posts with the hashtag #esnedchat on Twitter.

For more news about one-to-one computing in schools, see:

‘Mass Customized Learning’: The key to education reform?

Tips and success stories for effective mobile learning

Study reveals factors in ed-tech success

One-to-one computing programs only as effective as their teachers

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