With a swipe of your finger, you can order pizza from your phone. It only takes a few clicks to transfer money between your savings and checking accounts. Your smartphone can now double as a remote for the television. Technology is everywhere, and its uses, it seems, are infinite. Although technology has also been working its way into the classroom, finding the right ways to use it among students of varying ages and abilities can be challenging.
As technology continues to expand its reach into our daily lives, there has been an increasing rise in the need to find practical ways to bring it into education. We're not only talking about smartboards and digital projectors — although those are nice. Instead, we're talking about the need to identify and incorporate digital platforms into the daily learning experience.
Unfortunately, many teachers and administrators aren't quite sure where to start when it comes to implementing a one-to-one technology program. There are a lot of details to iron out, including logistics, finances and training. What's a tech-savvy educator to do?
The concept of a one-to-one classroom holds that each student should have access to a laptop, tablet or digital device for educational purposes. Once students have a computer, it opens them up to individualized activities and lessons touching on each topic they're studying in the classroom. Instead of a teacher trying to develop a lecture that will address each child's skills and learning styles, technology steps in and gives teachers the tools to provide the same information in a variety of ways.
The idea behind one-to-one technology in elementary, middle and high schools is that there is no one-size-fits-all method of education. Students have different abilities, varying educational backgrounds and alternative ways of learning. When you give each child a device for learning, they can access personalized content geared toward them. It also means you can distribute textbooks, handouts and learning aids in digital form, making it easier for students to access them at home and school.
So what is the role of the teacher in a one-to-one program?
The one-to-one concept negates the need for teachers to plan rote lectures and hope their students grasp the concept as presented. Instead, teachers plan lessons and activities incorporating digital resources, and guide their students through coursework geared toward their unique needs. When teachers understand one-to-one technology, they can then spend more time with small groups and individual students, guiding them through their lessons and giving personalized attention rather than planning and delivering lectures.
Besides the benefits of having more access to information at a variety of academic levels, a one-to-one setting provides an opportunity for students to learn a variety of 21st-century skills that will benefit them as they continue to grow and prepare to join a global workforce.
Understandably, one of the most significant concerns administrators and school boards have when considering one-to-one technology in schools is the price tag associated with it. After all, the "one-student-one-laptop" philosophy can add up quickly.
Although there is a specific startup cost associated with a one-to-one classroom, implementation opens up a lot of opportunities for open-source and free resources, such as the ones math teacher Connor Corey discovered for his students in Philadelphia.
So how can a school district make a one-to-one switch affordable? And are there things to consider when planning for a one-to-one transition?
Technology focused companies like Higher Ground offer discounts and incentives for school districts looking for custom products and services for their students.
Any one-to-one implementation plan needs to roll out gradually to train teachers on the best ways to use this type of instruction in the classroom. Besides being more effective in terms of teaching, gradual implementation means your school can spread out the expenses over time as well. Consider rolling out the teacher side of one-to-one the first year, so instructors have plenty of time to learn about the technology and how to incorporate it into their classroom. Then, the following year, budget the rest of the money needed to bring students on board.
Spreading out implementation over two or three years also gives time to save money. In some cases, school boards and administrators may find a surplus in specific areas of the budget that can go into a savings account of sorts until they're ready to purchase one-to-one technology.
The money to initiate one-to-one may be available by pulling funds from other areas of the school's budget. Consider areas that might have a surplus and — with full disclosure to all involved — shift those funds toward one-to-one implementation. Also, consult with your district's IT department to determine what, if any, network infrastructure is in place already and what you'll need to expand to support implementation.
Although one-to-one technology doesn't completely cancel out the need for textbooks, worksheets and handouts in the classroom, it does significantly cut down on the use of these items, which some schools find adds up to substantial cost savings over time. The money a school saves by spending less on these items can go toward the funds necessary to implement and maintain one-to-one.
Schools can also identify extraneous areas of spending. For example, a school might decide to save money by putting the student handbook online, rather than printing out a copy for each student. One high school in Illinois freed up $50,000 in their budget by using open-source software and hand-delivering report cards and other items rather than paying for postage.
Remember: Just because a one-child-one-laptop program worked for one school doesn't mean it will work for yours. Finding the funding for one-to-one technology means taking a close look at your school's individual needs, then determining the best way to incorporate technology into that. You will probably find that funding one-to-one will require several of these solutions, as well as others not outlined here. But the lesson in all this is not to let the price tag prevent you from exploring ways to implement one-to-one in your school. It may take some creative thinking, as well as time, but it's doable. We promise!
Wouldn't it be nice if you could wave a magic wand and instantly implement one-to-one across the school? Rolling out a one-to-one program might not be quite that simple, but with a little bit of time and patience, it can yield amazing results. Although different schools may require various approaches to this transition, it's a good idea to follow a few fundamental steps as you begin to implement your school's program.
Before you purchase any piece of technology, sit down with other administrators and faculty members. Spend time cultivating a set of student-focused goals for a one-to-one program. What do you hope to accomplish with this shift? How will it benefit the students? How will it help the teachers in the valuable work they do? It might be tempting to skip this step because it does seem abstract. However, it's essential to have these goals and expectations in mind before you move forward. You'll need to answer to the school board, parents and other teachers about this program. If you don't know why you're doing it, how will you help them understand its importance?
In some cases, you may need to use this phase to emphasize the benefits of one-to-one technology in schools for the other faculty and administrators who aren't familiar with the idea of having a designated laptop for each student. One-to-one computing in the classroom is still a relatively new concept, and one that evokes a variety of responses from teachers, parents and administrators. Don't make the mistake of assuming everyone else will automatically be on board. Take some time to explain the value and present trustworthy information about its benefits for students in all grade levels.
If your school hasn't relied heavily on technology for instruction before now, you probably don't have the strong wireless networking infrastructure you'll need to support a one-to-one program. Think about it: If every student and teacher has a laptop or tablet, and each of those people is online at the same time, you'll need a network that can handle that kind of traffic. Determine your requirements, then begin getting it set up. Your school or district IT liaison is a good place to start to determine what's available and how the network will need to expand to accommodate the significant increase in traffic.
Besides the ongoing Mac vs. PC debate, you'll also want to decide what kind of technology you want your students and teachers to have. Perhaps you want to invest more in teacher laptops, then buy one-to-one Chromebooks for students. Maybe laptops for teachers and tablets for students are sufficient. Take some time to determine what kind of technology your school's IT support staff are familiar with and what they can feasibly support. If you have the time, also consider selecting a handful of students and teachers to "test drive" a few options to help you select the one that's right for your school.
There are several upfront costs associated with implementing a one-to-one program, but don't forget to also factor in expenses like upkeep, repair and replacement. You'll also need to consider the total price of building and maintaining the network to sustain the program, as well as the IT support it requires. If you aren't sure what these things will cost, consult with experienced professionals who can give you an accurate estimate of both the startup and long-term pricing. Both these numbers are essential to developing a program that's sustainable over time. If you don't incorporate these into your initial cost estimate, you'll be setting your program up for failure before it ever gets off the ground.
It's not enough to hand teachers a laptop and send them out to figure out how to use it in their daily lesson plans. To implement a successful one-to-one program, you'll want to factor in extensive teacher training. We're not necessarily talking about training them to use a laptop — although some may need that. Teachers will also need training on how to transition to one-to-one teaching methods and incorporate one-to-one computers in school instruction. Spend time familiarizing them with the 21st-century skills students will gain from the program. And give them plenty of information on privacy protection and school-approved vendors and applications to use for instructional purposes.
Inevitably, the implementation of a one-to-one laptop program will raise the question: Should students have laptops in school? If you're going to assign a tablet or laptop to every child in the school, it's essential to make sure parents understand what's going on. Just like students — and ultimately their parents — are responsible for a lost or damaged textbook, students and their parents will be responsible for the use and condition of the technology they use in school. Holding parent workshops and informational meetings is a good way to explain what the technology is for and how you intend for them to use it.
Many people get nervous when they hear a child will receive a dedicated laptop or tablet to use whenever they want. But it's essential to remember that the purpose of a one-to-one environment is to encourage them to harness the good of the internet and its boundless information. If you want your school's transition to a one-to-one environment to roll out smoothly, plan to spend a lot of time training students on the correct use of their one-to-one laptop, including online etiquette and care of the technology. Teach them about how it can improve their educational experience. Show them different ways to find information. Set them up for success from the beginning.
One of the most significant considerations in implementing a one-to-one program is the protection of student privacy and the technology they're using. Your school can — and should — put appropriate safeguards into place to protect student data, but what about keeping students from using technology in unintended ways?
Your IT department will play a vital role in installing firewalls and blocking certain undesirable sites from being accessible from student laptops, but guiding students toward productive and safe use of technology should be an integral part of using one-to-one computers in schools.
As part of the training of teachers and preparation of students, make sure to spend a significant amount of time showing both parties how to identify a legitimate source or app for educational use. The school should help teachers cultivate a list of approved sources and applications they can use in instruction. Evaluate these tools to make sure they are high-quality resources that adhere to the appropriate data privacy requirements. These days, all apps and websites are collecting user information in some fashion. Your school must protect its students by limiting what information they can accidentally share with third parties online.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is the current legislation that safeguards students' information and who can access it. Check any vendors or applications your school opts to make available to students against FERPA, as well as other federal and state laws that are in place to protect the privacy of a minor online.
Not only do schools have to worry about the privacy of the technology, but also the physical protection of the 1:1 devices. Students are not usually known to be the most careful with the devices that the school provides them. The devices will be prone to be shoved in backpacks, thrown in lockers, and of course, drops. To protect your devices you need to make sure that you have the right protection for the job. The functionality of cases that a 1:1 program can be broken down to the 4 main categories:
Higher Ground has been designing protective solutions for student-friendly technology since 2002. We have committed to the goal of providing a high-quality product constructed from the best materials available. Why? Technology is here to make life easier. Devices like tablets and laptops need to withstand regular use, especially when students and teachers rely on them every day. Our promise to provide the products teachers and students need to learn is unwavering. If your school or district needs one-to-one laptop cases or one-to-one Chromebook or tablet cases, consider purchasing through Higher Ground. Contact us to request a quote for one of our many educational products and services or browse our collection of cases today!