May 15, 2014
Teachers Talk - Planning for 1:1 Success
Colin Hill, Director of Computer Services, Canadian University College, Lacombe, AB

One-to-one programs (or 1:1, where each student is assigned or purchases a standardized laptop computer or mobile device) have been in place for many years now. These may range from single classroom implementations, to school, district or even statewide such as the program in Maine, USA.  Many of our NAD schools have also piloted or forged ahead with 1:1 initiatives with varying degrees of success.  So, as this winter’s TDEC meeting was held in Austin Texas, we also spent a couple days attending the Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) annual convention, and I decided to focus in on sessions dealing with 1:1 programs.  I know that many SDACC schools are looking for help in determining if, or how, they should move forward with a deployment of their own.
Surely, if so many 1:1 programs are operational, one would think that there was ample evidence that the participants have improved academic success.  However, the results are not that clear.  Studies of the Maine statewide laptop 1:1 program showed statistically significant improvements in English Language Arts achievement, but not in Mathematics (Baybell & Kay, 2010).  Other studies have shown that one gender exhibits more benefits than the other, or that certain learning styles will have increased learning over others.  The BWLI study also showed clearly that  “the majority of students and teachers altered their approach and practices since the introduction of laptops to the classroom” and that student research skills and collaboration were enhanced. What I believe is clear is that the more successful 1:1 programs are implemented with the knowledge that a change in teaching techniques and strategies is also necessary.
A broad survey of the studies that have been done shows that there are more reports showing academic benefits than not (Sauer & McLeod, 2012).  Even so, there have been some schools or districts that have reversed or stalled their 1:1 plans. However, when these are examined closely, it appears that the problems faced have been more connected to lack of a clear vision for the program or inadequate planning.  Others, like the highly publicised Los Angeles Unified School District and Miami-Dade County school district, have faced security challenges, and even legal action from teachers’ unions over content and funding.  With this in mind, I want to look closely at what is necessary for successfully implementing a 1:1 program.  
The  Australian Queensland government (see references) provides the following 4 point list, insisting that an equal focus on all four points is necessary for a successful 1:1 roll-out. Many of the TCEA sessions that I attended strongly emphasised most, if not all, of these points:
  • a strongly supported vision and culture across the whole school community
  • effective technical infrastructure and support
  • development of constructivist, student-centred pedagogies
  • structured professional development for staff
How can you measure success if you don’t know what you are measuring?  How can you call a program successful if you have not first defined what success should look like? Before any technology initiative is undertaken, time and effort must be taken to plan for its integration. At a time when many budgets are being reduced, it’s essential to have a vision that giving every student a digital device must lead to achievements beyond what we can accomplish with our existing tools. Primarily, a 1:1 program should focus on the personalization, enhanced interaction and creativity that personal devices can offer. Maximizing individual learning potential must be at the core of the goals, and must be shared by all levels of instruction and administration. The vision must be focused on the learning, not the device.  As challenges arise in the implementation, this vision should be referenced and adjustments should be made as necessary to make the vision a reality.
Several of the sessions I attended placed a heavy emphasis on the area of infrastructure. Any 1:1 program deployed today will need a strong wireless infrastructure to support it. This needs to be backed up by adequate reliable Internet bandwidth to support the increased and continuous demand that will be placed on it. Enterprise class wireless access points should be considered over the consumer class ones that you find at Future Shop, etc.
Knowledgeable and capable staff are also important to maintain the network and devices that are deployed.  Things like charging strategies, replacement devices, insurance and security are areas to be planned for before deployment.  A single teacher may be able to manage 4 classroom iPads without deploying special management techniques, but when each student has one, the problems can be overwhelming. A Mobile Device Management strategy must be considered. This will provide the ability to manage the devices by enforcing certain security, privacy and device policies to protect the institution, the students and the investment.  These will also allow staff to push out configurations and apps to the devices, restore devices to pre-set configurations and track the devices. These can range from the free solution from Meraki (CAT~net May 2012) to the rather expensive, but top rated, Casper Suite system from JAMF Software.
Curriculum Loft is a product that I was introduced to which has been selected by many of the presenters from the conference.  It is a full service solution that includes many of the features of separate learning management systems, content management systems and mobile device management for mobile learning devices.  It allows for synchronization of content across the mobile devices and automates assessment delivery, turn-in and grading. Properly used, a tool like this is sure to be worth the investment.
While much of the research or examples from the past few years have focused on laptop or tablet deployments, the wave upon us now is of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) or, as it is known in education circles, BYOx (Bring Your Own x).  This is where students and  staff use their own private  devices to access the network and information systems in an educational setting. This adds several layers of complexity to security and management but is something to be planning for.
Simply placing a digital device in students’ hand without a fundamental change in the culture of teaching and learning will not lead to any significant improvements. Teachers must change how they structure classroom activities, interactions, outcome expectations, and out-of-class activities. The most successful programs have reported increased “high student attention, interest, and engagement and a decrease in the use of traditional “independent seatwork”  (Sauer & McLeod, 2012).  Greater use of project-based learning, cooperative and collaborative learning, independent inquiry and research, and high academic focused class time are central to success, with a decrease in time spent on ‘direct instruction.’  The ‘Flipped Classroom’ (see CAT~net May 20, 2013) becomes an easier reality with a successful Implementation.
The teacher is key; “it is impossible to overstate the power of individual teachers in the success or failure of 1:1 computing” (Baybell & Kay, 2010).  The changes in teaching style to accommodate the use of mobile devices can be overwhelming.  A daily use of the adopted technology for student online collaboration and cooperative learning is essential to reaching a high level of achievement.  The teacher must be committed to using the technology effectively, creatively and in manner that becomes natural for the students. Remember that the students are likely more familiar with the technologies than many teachers, so the more natural its use appears, without unrealistic or burdensome restriction, the higher the rate of success.  Teachers can have students help them in learning some of the technology: don’t let feelings of inadequacy stop you from trying something new.  Try one thing, take time to get it working well, adopt it, and then move on to a new skill or technique. Don’t expect to learn it all at once.
One fear teachers may have about 1:1 programs is that classroom and student interaction may be impeded and students will be easily distracted by the devices.  Actual results show that only 7% of teachers reported a lowering of student interaction (Baybell & Kay, 2010). One technique of classroom management that can set aside these fears is to have red-light green-light system in place.  When the light is red, all devices must be placed on the desktop and turned OFF (not even on silent or vibrate mode), a yellow light means that the devices may be in silent mode, but only used if permission has been given.  A green light means that use is allowed, or even expected.
Professional Development:
“Various research has indicated that the effectiveness of professional development has a direct impact on the success of a 1:1 program” (Sauer & McLeod, 2012). This is one of the key factors that is often under funded.  One of the sessions reported that the amount spent on professional development was ¼ of what had been spent on the hardware involved in the implementation.  Not only must the teachers and administrators be prepared before the implementation, but an on-going (at least monthly) plan must be in place to continue this training (Greaves, Hayes, Wilson, et al., 2010). 
A successful 1:1 deployment by a Baptist school in Texas had their teachers use the laptops for a full year before deploying them to students also.  During that year, they had extensive training and even brought in Apple corporate educators to conduct some general and two specific training days. While you may not feel you have time or resources to follow that model, this is not an area on which to cut back without jeopardizing the entire deployment.  
Coordination of schedules to allow collaborative planning sessions among teachers and mentorship programs are ideas that will be relatively easy to implement, but go a long way toward success while also ensuring that teachers are not isolated. Sessions should be presented on planning learning environments that are conducive to effective technology use.
With all the above considered, there are few reasons why you should not have a successful and even enjoyable 1:1 deployment.

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