1:1 - What is it? Is your school prepared? Are your community members informed and supportive? The questions go on and on. The 1:1 initiative is all about giving laptops to students. 1:1 literally means one laptop per student. Most of us have heard of schools like Westside in Omaha who have started buying laptops for students as young as fifth grade. Those students carry the laptops with them all year long and check them in at the end of the year. They are then maintained throughout the summer and handed back out in the fall.
There are many items to take into consideration when considering 1:1. When the topic of 1:1 and school preparedness is discussed in our meetings here at the service unit, I ask participants to consider many factors. Are your classrooms equipped with whiteboards and projectors? Is there enough electrical capacity to charge the laptops when the batteries are low? Do you have a network that will support a large amount of wireless clients? Just because you have a wireless network does not mean it will support a surge in wireless activity. Your school may need to upgrade its current network to be able to handle this surge. Your school may also need to increase the number of wireless devices so it can handle more clients.
What about your staff? Does your staff have the adequate skills and knowledge to teach with technology? Getting the technology in the students' hands is only a matter of purchasing laptops. Your staff will need to know what to do with the laptops in the classroom. Teaching in a 1:1 environment looks and feels much different than teaching in a classroom with just one computer. Students will want to use the laptops for everything, so as teachers, we must be able to find ways to transform what we teach into digital content. Does your school currently subscribe to a Learning Management System such as ANGEL? ANGEL allows teachers to post online content that is available 24/7. Teachers can post assignments, assessments, and notes from the classroom on ANGEL. ANGEL has many other classroom uses besides these mentioned, but it is important that schools think about learning outside the classroom when adopting a 1:1 program.
Is your community in support of this project? You have to remember that tax payer dollars are largely funding this initiative. Therefore, it is necessary to have community support to keep this project ongoing. Do you have a plan for getting your community members involved?
What about future funding? Do you have a plan for sustainability? Once a school begins the 1:1 program, it is difficult to stop. A school may have the funding to buy laptops for students now, but what about the future? The life span of a laptop is about three years. What is your replacement plan?
Lastly, why are you considering buying laptops for students? Is it because other schools are doing it? Is there a plan to collect data showing an increase in student learning since the laptops were purchased?
As you can see, this list of considerations is long. I am not opposed to buying laptops for students. I am a big supporter of using technology with students. Students are wired for it. However, without proper planning and support, this program could fail at your school. I have visited schools and talked to professionals who have adopted this program, and they tell me the 1:1 implementation is a two to three year process: get your classrooms ready, get your staff trained, and then start handing laptops out to students.
The Nebraska Department of Education has a great site for schools looking into buying laptops for students. For more information, please check out their Laptop Initiative site at http://www.nde.state.ne.us/techcen/NebraskaLaptopInitiatives.htm.
As always, I'd be interested in hearing your comments. Please feel free to email them to me: grobke at esu4.org or you can post a comment on this blog.