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One to One Technology in Schools


The pace of technological change seems to continually accelerate with time. The past several decades have seen schools making the transition from being virtually barren of technology, to having integrated technology in each classroom to one degree or another. However, save for isolated pockets of innovation around the country, technology seems to remain entrenched in a relatively limited role during the school day. For most school buildings, classroom technology is limited to being utilized in a role to support the teacher's presentation of instruction (e.g. document cameras , interactive whiteboards , data-projection, etc.) Students are, for the most part, utilizing in-school lab-based equipment on an infrequent basis for day-to-day instruction.

Clearly, technology continues to become more integrated into each of our daily lives. Whether at home or work, most adults as well as students, are "plugged in" whether by smartphone, laptop, or iPod. New devices such as Apple's iPad continue to push further to integrate technology into our daily lives to supplement or supplant many of the things that we take for granted daily such as reading a book or newspaper, taking a picture, or making a phone call.If schools do not work hard to integrate technology into our students' lives, we run the real risk of becoming increasingly irrelevant and ineffective. Clearly, taking students infrequently to a computer lab for simple tasks is no longer acceptable. Schools must take real steps to provide students with the opportunity to integrate technology into every aspect of their school day. The best and most logical way to do this is for each student to have a portable device, be it handheld, laptop, tablet, or otherwise; and to utilize that device throughout their school day and beyond! Teachers too, must be well versed in technology and effectively interweave its use throughout instruction. Such use of "one to one" technology will insure that our students have every opportunity to fully participate in education that is engaging and relevant to their own world.



A great introduction to the possibilities of handheld technology in the hands of every student is this video, produced by the Mobile Learning Institute. Dr. Elliot Soloway and Professor Cathie Norris go to various schools to examine the impact of mobile computing devices in each child's hands. -- Dr. Soloway has many articles and interviews that may be found online advocating the use of mobile technology, like this one from Education Week.

Several school districts in Iowa have implemented one-to-one technology initiatives using laptops. While different from the use of handhelds as noted in the Soloway/Norris video, laptops provide a powerful platform for allowing students to work across the curriculum in the classroom. This article from local press details the success of the initiative.

A new product generating a great deal of buzz on the market as a tool for the classroom is the iPad, a new product from Apple that is designed to be an eBook reader and internet browsing device, among other functions. Much of the difficulty in purchasing technology for the classroom is the base cost. This device starts at $499 for a base model, but research indicates potential for bringing that price down substantially. In fact, independent study puts the real cost of manufacture at just under $230. Educators have seen a great number of possibilities as noted in this article from eSchool News.

A possible alternative to one-to-one computing is the use of laptop carts or otherwise mobile labs. While this may be a cost effective way to try to utilize technology, this article from the ZD Net Website makes the case that these are not a replacement for a one to one technology initiative.

Overall, there are already many one-to-one technology programs going on across the country. Different states have taken on one-to-one technology as a major initiative. South Dakota is noted as the leading state when measured by the percentage of schools taking part in these programs. The state with the fewest programs by this measure is budget-challenged California. While, by these statistics, it is clear that there are still relatively few schools in the nation taking on true one-to-one programs, it is also clear that a critical mass is forming.

Regardless of the many good reasons noted as to why schools should go to one-to-one technology programs, there are many arguments to be made that one-to-one computer programs do not replace the teacher. This article from eSchool News makes the case that the quality and training of the teacher still makes the largest difference as to whether student achievement is positively affected.


There are many legitimate concerns about the implementation of one to one technology initiatives. Issues such as privacy, misuse of technology by students, ongoing maintenance costs, etc. have been brought forward.

This article from the Wall Street Journal serves as an example of how problematic one to one programs may become. Problems resulting from student misuse of computers are noted including use of school computers to search for pornography. Parent concerns arise from their students becoming increasingly disengaged in outside activities and spend more time on the computer.

Recently, a nationally known controversy in Pennsylvania surrounding student privacy has stirred many questions about privacy. This story having been covered on virtually every major news outlet, has brought concerns to national crescendo. Many opinions have been written on this subject, including this opinion from the Philadelphia Inquirer.


Project RED is a great resource for persons interested in finding out more about the one-to-one technology movement. The overall mission of the organization, among other things, is help the United States revolutionize how technology is looked at as part of the process of teaching and learning. Through the use of thousands of surveys and studies, this project hopes to identify successful models for technology integration, find ways to save costs as a result of technology implementation, and make an overall significant and positive impact on American education in general.

Click here for the Project RED research summary.


There is a great deal of research supporting the increased use of technology in education in general, and the proliferation of one-to-one technology specifically. While many legitimate concerns exist that educators must be aware of and deal with, the overall benefits far outweigh the potential points of detraction.

In implementing one-to-one technology in a building or district, a great deal of work must be done to address immediate concerns. Experience now tells us that privacy is of primary concern. Following the incident of alleged webcam spying in Pennsylvania, districts embracing technology must clearly take steps to guarantee student and family privacy. In addition, teachers and school officials must also work to educate students and their families about intended uses of the technology in addition to the standard "acceptable uses" now delineated in most board policy manuals. The family support is of particular importance, as many parents may feel ill-equipped to deal with a sudden influx of technology in their homes. While we want our students to have expansive access to the online world and the tools that one-to-one technology will bring them, it is also critical that we do not allow them to become isolated and cut off from their families and communities. Parents will need support and education in this venture to help them help their students at home.

Regardless of perceived concerns, the continued expansion and implementation of one-to-one programs is critical to the continued growth of our schools, and more importantly, the growth of student achievement. Today's global world is becoming increasingly technology dependent, and our children must be prepared in a setting that has resemblance and relevance to that world. The simple truth is that the majority of our students are already immersed in the world of technology outside of school. To stagnate in education will mean that school will become increasingly and dangerously irrelevant to our students as we continue to use tools and methods that are not meaningful to them and the lives that they live. Even in a time of diminishing budgets and increasing constraints, we must be creative and innovative to insure that we don't fall behind.


As a principal, I believe strongly in the need to "share leadership" among the professionals that I work with each day. I do this not to create "buy in" to my ideas, but rather to foster a sense of "investment" into the ideas of the group as a whole. Creating a culture in which shared leadership and a free exchange of ideas may take place is challenging and requires training, follow up coaching, and a lot of practice! The powerpoint below briefly summarizes the process...