1:1 classroom

Best practices for rolling out tech in the classroom—an administrative perspective

Edtech director describes how her school planned a 1:1 rollout with success.

At The Shipley School, we’ve embraced how technology can aid in the learning process for all of our students, particularly in our Middle School (grades 6-8) and Upper School (grades 9-12) classrooms. With laptops, students can quickly access information while in class, use audio and video tools to complement traditional assignments, and collaborate more easily on group projects.

We’re a Pre-K-12 coeducational independent school located in the competitive Philadelphia education market, so we’re always looking for ways to differentiate ourselves, and we pride ourselves in providing a world class education for our students.

Shipley has always been interested in student technology use, and for years that meant laptops available via computer labs and carts for teachers to reserve for their lessons. As computer use and personal laptop use became more common, we allowed students to bring their own devices to school, but recognized not every student comes from a family with the financial means to buy an extra laptop for their child.

This created a disparity, and we wanted to level the playing field by giving all students access to the best resources and learning tools, including technology. In 2013, Shipley made the integration of technology a priority, and the Board of Trustees approved a 1:1 program—a program where we provide each student (grades 6-12) with a school-leased laptop. 

Training for Teachers

Tech Training

Long before our students had laptops in hand, we began working with our Middle School and Upper School teachers. We balanced specific technical training on our learning management system and particular web tools with discussions about best practices for classroom management and room design.

We had honest conversations about how to exist and teach in this new environment.

Time Management

Having a classroom full of students with laptops can be a challenge for even the most seasoned teachers, especially for those who may feel less confident with technology. So when providing professional learning for our colleagues, we discussed different challenging classroom scenarios, like how to tell when laptops are becoming a distraction or determining if a student’s laptop “emergency” is actually something that warrants time out of class to visit the tech department.

Physical Space

On a practical level, teachers had to rethink how their classrooms would be configured. For instance, would they want to be able to get behind screens to check their students’ work? Where should the teacher’s desk be? When students collaborate on digital work, do all of them need an open laptop or is one enough? What tools are easiest for student collaboration and teacher supervision? Since we had many teachers who were already doing great work with technology, we were able to take advantage of many in-house experts.

(Next page: Where to begin; 1:1 pains and successes)

Where to Begin

The Middle School was selected to be the first division to implement the 1:1 program for the logistical reason that the Middle School teachers were most familiar with the particular computers we intended to use and the smaller size of the Middle School.

Our 1:1 program expanded into the Upper School the following year in fall 2014.

With Parents

To ensure students used their laptops responsibly, we tied laptop distribution to Middle School Orientation, where we shared our expectations and had parents and students sign off on both receipt of the laptop and behavior expectations. We deliberately had parents and students attend together to ensure everyone was on the same page and made it very clear that, while we are lending the students laptops, family rules still apply at home.

At Shipley, while we want our students to be thoroughly engaged in their work at school, we recognize and support students’ family time and outside-of-school interests. We do not provide laptops for students to be on screens all day. As part of our orientations, we encouraged all families to discuss the role technology plays in their homes and lay ground rules, including where the laptop gets charged and if it’s allowed in the bedroom, particularly for younger students.

With Social Media

We also discuss the topic of social media, explaining to both students and parents the importance of using these platforms responsibly. To reinforce these standards, we revised our Responsible Use Policy, which includes rules for safety and productivity, to take into account the fact that these school-issued laptops would be going home with students and be used outside of school.

Growing Pains and Successes

Our 1:1 program in the Middle and Upper schools has been very successful, but with anything that involves technological evolution, there were obstacles. We took these in stride and used them as opportunities to refresh our strategy, adjust our thinking, and update our systems, always with the student experience in mind.


Sufficient bandwidth was one of the things we knew we needed from the beginning. It’s a limited and shared resource to begin with, and we knew we’d eventually need to expand to accommodate our Upper School students. And yet, it is hard to imagine a high school student’s bandwidth consumption.

After the Upper School became 1:1, we increased our bandwidth and then increased it again recently as pricing changed. We also put procedures in place to prioritize particular bandwidth users and uses. Similarly, as technology can be unpredictable, we didn’t want to dampen the excitement of this program by not having support staff to fix issues when problems occur, which they always do. We recognized early on that we would need sufficient dedicated technology support staff on-site to keep things running as smoothly as possible.


Additionally, with laptops being toted in backpacks, wedged into lockers, and sometimes going to fields at practice, we anticipated there would be some damage to the machines. After looking into insurance policies, we opted to self-insure by putting aside money each year to cover damages and establishing deductibles for repairs that increase if students have multiple repairs. Food and laptops really don’t mix, so we restrict laptop use at lunch and encourage students to use keyboard covers to protect against spills, both of which have curbed damage.


Even with the growing pains we’ve experienced, the program is unquestionably a success. Now that every student has access to his or her own personal laptop, we can use a learning management system where school materials—classroom resources, sports schedules, school events, and grades—are stored and know that every student has the ability to access it.

This “one-stop shop” approach to managing information helps our students and families keep track of not just academic work but sports, activities, and music and theater rehearsals, and is integrated into our website and database system.

Digital Portfolios

In addition, all students now create and curate a personal digital portfolio of self-reflection and learning progress that they maintain throughout their entire Shipley career. The digital portfolio is just one example of an idea that began in a small, individual class way before our 1:1 program, and then once we moved to a 1:1 environment, could grow to be an ongoing, all-school initiative.

Teacher Inspiration

One of the more gratifying parts of supporting my colleagues through the 1:1 rollout was learning from them. Once we started the dialogue about integrating technology into the classroom, teachers began researching strategies and tips for success, sharing their findings with their colleagues. Their engagement has contributed to keeping the conversation on technology ongoing at Shipley.

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