One-to-one: Student-led, student-centered

One-to-one initiatives aren’t likely to succeed unless they are supported in multiple ways

one-to-one-BLCSurprise, surprise! Decisions imposed on people suddenly, with no time to get used to the idea or prepare for the consequences, are generally resisted. It’s always easier to say No than to say Yes. Leaders should avoid the temptation to craft changes in secret and then announce them all at once. It’s better to plant seeds–that is, to sprinkle hints of what might be coming and seek input. (Kanter, 2012)

As we explored the implementation of one-to-one student devices, we thought thoroughly through the change process. This would, in fact, prove to be one of the largest shifts our district has ever made. Involving as many stakeholders as possible in this process allows for deep engagement, empowerment, and ultimately ownership of the decisions being made. For students and teachers this involvement will lead to deep learning in an authentic environment with real-world and timely problems to be solved.

Involving stakeholders

From planning and preparation to deployment and troubleshooting, our students were involved every step of the way. We had two decisions to make; a new platform, and choosing our first student device.

(Next page: How the one-to-one initiative was student-centered)

During our platform selection process, we began with a group of fourth graders and a group of 7th graders from two different buildings. Students were introduced to the basic facts on three platform options. They were then given a variety of factors to research and consider including cost, ease of use, ease of implementation, technical staff, and collaboration features. Once the information was gathered, students toured the district presenting to their peers on the benefits and drawbacks of each platform. The students conducted surveys to collect data on platform preference. Staff in the district were also given the same survey to complete based on information collected by a staff committee. In the end, it was a decided that we would be going with Google (GAFE) as a platform. All stakeholders had a voice and as a result, owned the decision.

Next we formed student and staff focus groups to analyze different device options that would be compatible with our Google platform. Experts from the school district’s Information Services team, manufacturers like Asus, Samsung, and Lenovo, and CDW-G brought in device models for our students to look at, play with, and research. The students also took a research trip to CDW-G to gather additional information. The students conducted their own research, read technical text, and wrote and spoke about the information and their conclusions during this process.

Students were engaged with the work and their learning because they knew they could really make a difference and there were adults waiting to see what their recommendations would be. Students created video presentations about the particular device they were recommending along with the reasons why. These videos were shown to the staff members on the student device decision-making committee who also participated in recommending the selected device.

From the student and staff committees, it was decided we would be purchasing the Acer Chromebook to be deployed at our middle schools the following school year (2013-2014) with each student receiving her or his own Chromebook. The students considered what would actually allow them to complete the kind of work they ought to face as learners while also considering cost, durability, technical support, and usability. As a culmination to this work, the presentation of this recommendation to the Board of Education was primarily undertaken by representative students and staff members from the decision making process.

Implementation and moving forward

We have now completed Year 1 of our one-to-one deployment of Chromebooks. Students and staff are still very engaged in moving forward with student-led decision making with our district technology and devices. These goals are in alignment with our district Technology Plan.


  • 4th grade ELL students gathering data and making recommendations for how Chromebooks should be implemented in our elementary schools (grades 3-5). This information will be used in training our elementary school teachers.
  • 7th grade students finding free internet access in our communities to share with our families who may not have access at home
  • 6-7th grade students helping us decide on our next generation device that will be purchased for our incoming 6th graders next year
  • 6-8 grade students creating ‘tips and tricks’ manuals for each other Students creating policies and guidelines to hold each other accountable
  • Staff committees deciding on our next generation one-to-one staff computers
  • Initial efforts at developing middle school, student-run help desks

Making real change successful

When people are involved, empowered and supported, they will embrace the change set forth. Involving students and staff in the change process creates opportunities for deep, purposeful learning. This allows them to grow, take risks, and ultimately encourages them to own the decision and implement it more successfully.

Tracy Crowley is a former elementary school teacher who currently works as a K-8 Information Literacy Specialist in Community Consolidated School District 21 in Wheeling, Illinois.

Heather Popilek is a former middle school teacher who is currently working as a district Science and Exploratory Curriculum Coordinator in Community Consolidated School District 21 in Wheeling, Illinois.

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