How to manage your one-to-one program after you hand out devices

After the Chromebooks and iPads are distributed, admins and IT teams must keep asking the tough questions

If there’s one thing schools have learned from the multiple one-to-one mobile device implementations that have rolled out during the last few years, it’s that they’re hardly “set it and forget it” projects.

Purchasing and handing out the iPads, Chromebooks, or laptops are just the first steps on a long path that must also incorporate ongoing professional development for teachers and training for students; the establishment of acceptable usage policies and procedures; management of device support, insurance, and repair…and the list goes on.

“As a one-to-one implementation matures, different things happen that you may not have considered at the outset,” said Scott S. Smith, Ed.D., who serves as chief technology officer at Mooresville Graded School District in Mooresville, N.C — a district with one of the most celebrated one-to-one programs in the country. “For this reason, it’s important to maintain a clear vision and purpose from day one.” For most districts, that vision should center on why the one-to-one initiative is a good idea and how it will change instruction, teaching, and the learning environment for the better.

“The focus shouldn’t be on the tools or the devices,” Smith cautions.

Breaking down silos

For a one-to-one implementation to succeed over the long haul, Smith said traditional educational silos that exist between the IT department and the curriculum directors must be eliminated. “These two departments can’t work independently and expect a district- or school-wide one-to-one implementation to work well,” said Smith. “IT can’t be over here doing its thing while curriculum is over there handling its tasks. Both have to be on the same page and sharing the same vision.”

To districts that are challenged by these types of silos, Smith said the best approach is to lay out the framework for one-to-one success early by identifying potential hang-ups and hurdles that could impede that goal. “Figure out how the two departments can compliment each other instead of working against one another,” Smith advised. “This is a major factor in the ongoing success of any one-to-one implementation, so it’s worth paying attention to.”

Ongoing PD

Ongoing professional development is equally as important, said Smith, and should be sustained over the life of the one-to-one implementation. “Professional development really never ends,” he points out. Make sure teachers feel as if they are supported and not just left to “figure things out” on their own, give them the opportunity to take risks (e.g., by using the devices to test out new pedagogical methods like blended and flipped learning), and use strategies like co-teaching and team teaching to support the district’s one-to-one vision.

“Professional development is going to look different in each district, Smith said, “but the underlying focus should be on letting teachers know that they’re supported from an instructional standpoint.” On the technical side, Smith gives this very basic piece of advice to schools that want to sustain one-to-one success for the long haul:  Make sure teachers know that if something breaks, help is just a phone call, text, or email away.

Next page: Find out which skills your students will need

At his last district, Robert C. Sidford, the 21st century learning coordinator at Washoe County School District in Reno, Nev., said his team was “flying blind” with its one-to-one rollout for students in grades 4-12. It was 2008 and few (if any) one-to-one best practices had been established yet for K-12 schools. But even back then, he said he quickly realized that one-to-one rollouts shouldn’t be focused on the number and types of devices needed, but rather on how those devices can be used to enhance and support instruction.

For example, Sidford said districts should kick off their one-to-one implementations by asking themselves questions like, “What is it like to be a graduate of our K-12 system?” and “What skills and knowledge do we want our students to graduate with?” From there, work backwards and figure out what structures and methods need to be put in place to help students get there. Sidford said this simple (and early) step can mean the difference between a successful, long-term one-to-one vision and one that falls short of expectations.

“The planning process is a huge part of one-to-one, yet schools really want things to happen immediately and overnight,” said Sidford. “As with anything, when you look at why you’re really doing something—then take purposeful steps to achieving your vision—the results will be much more favorable.”

Smith concurs, and said everything from preconceived notions to unrealistic expectations to egos must be put aside if a district wants to see year-over-year progress with its one-to-one implementation. “The project doesn’t belong to the IT department or the curriculum department. It belongs to everyone,” said Smith. “If you don’t include all of the stakeholders in the process and make them a part of the project’s success, you’ll literally just be handing out devices and hoping that they make a difference. Without all of the parts and pieces in place, that’s just not going to happen.”

The 4 stages of one-to-one infrastructure

With any one-to-one implementation, the underlying technology, devices, and infrastructure must be able to perform over the long haul. Scott Smith uses these four stages of one-to-one technology infrastructure to break down the path from “considering” an implementation to the transformational stages of such an implementation.

Stage One:  Just considering a rollout

  • ­ The district network is inadequate for even wired computers and computer labs
  • ­ The district cannot support one-to-one device usage for students
  • ­ Software and device management is ad hoc

Stage Two:  The basic or beginning phase 

  • ­ The district network is ad hoc, developed organically with roots in supporting a limited set of adults on computers
  • ­ The district cannot yet support one-to-one device usage for students without throttling functionality
  • ­Software and device management is ad hoc

Stage Three:  The emerging phase of implementation

  • ­ The district has security solutions in place
  • ­ The district has plans for implementing a standard, reliable network with adequate capacity to meet current needs
  • ­ The district has a collection of tools to manage software and devices

Stage Four:  The transformational stage

  • ­The district has effective architecture design and maintenance to support security solutions
  • ­The district uses standard hardware and networks
  • ­The district can meet current and future capacity needs
  • ­The district network has high availability
  • ­The district has the tools and processes to effectively manage district software and devices

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