The concept of 1:1 has been around for quite a while, but didn’t quite catch on until recently, the major driver behind this being the increasing availability of devices and general change in education . 1:1 education means that each and every student gets a device (usually a laptop) with preloaded programs and textbooks. The device is usually offered by the school, but with the spread of BYOD programs, this no longer stands true all the time.

The main reason behind giving each student a device is to get one step closer to delivering personalized education. Learning in a 1:1 environment is student-centered, as the student gets more power over their own learning journey. By using the said device, a student can ask for help and receive targeted feedback and support from one teacher or another, access the internet and other learning materials and resources when they most need them, and basically develop skills that a face-to-face learning environment can’t teach.

This isn’t to say that classroom instruction should be completely swapped with online teaching and learning. Definitely not. But 1:1 programs have proven to contribute to better academic results for students. Many schools and districts have already joined the 1:1 trend, and the numbers are still growing.

5 steps for implementing a 1:1 program

In an attempt to simplify what it means to implement a 1:1 program in a school, here are five steps to do it so that it’ll be successful. Of course these steps are general, and of course they can’t go into too many details, as each school has different needs. But they offer a basic journey from thinking about going 1:1 to actually doing it.

  1. Going Google… or Microsoft… or Apple

    You can’t really complain of not having enough choices in terms of actual devices that could be used in the classroom. Google, Microsoft and Apple are really just the big players of the industry, but you’ll find many more options if you look beyond them.

    Take your time and do your research. It will be worth your while.

  2. Selecting a device

    If we focus on these three big options, however, it can be hard to choose between the compatibility of Chromebooks with all the other Google products we’re so used to use in the classroom, the spread of devices students already use that have Windows as their operating system, and the beautiful and powerful iPads or iMacs.

    Whatever you choose, you need to keep in mind the needs of the school: the total number of students who need devices, if there is already a BYOD program and details about it, what cloud collaboration tools (Google Suite vs. Office 365 for Education vs. Apple School Manager) are most preferred among the teachers and which of their features are a must or just nice to have.

    During this decision making process, the student voice must also be heard. Organize focus groups or polls and include students in these data collection process. Gather their ideas and suggestions and use that information to opt for the best devices. After all, the students are the ones who’ll use them the most.

  3. User and device management

    Once you’re set on one type of device and operating system, other things need to be tackled. Together with the teachers, you need to decide on how to best store the devices when they’re not in use, develop the policy of extra devices and hardware maintenance, think about the inventory system.

    Then you have to wrap up your sleeves and dive into the software: import all data you already have and will be necessary, synchronize the devices with various cloud tools, install programs and applications, including your school LMS. After that, go on and set user accounts, what levels of access has each type of user, configure the admin panel and fine-tune other details.

  4. Ensure system security

    Whether we’re talking about student personal or academic data, or staff personal or professional data, the devices and the software will inevitably make use of these data. So it’s in everyone’s best interest to rely on a secure system of device use.

    This means that both the security of the hardware and that of the software must be ensured. Devices and other accessories must have a safe place of storage, like locked cabinets, and all the software must be compliant with the latest security standards, with automated backups, password protection, different levels of access to data, and so on.

  5. PD for teachers and staff

    Finally, don’t assume that once you have everything set up, your job is done. That’s a mistake too many school tech implementation units do. You need to make sure the staff is on board and that they can handle everything. Teachers are already busy being teachers — creating course materials, delivering lessons, and making connections with each student from their class; they don’t always need technology to do these, or they don’t always know how to use the devices and all the software at their full potential.

    Offering targeted PD for teachers will support them in overcoming any tech challenge, perhaps even before one arises. Only knowledgeable teachers will be able to handle the use of so many devices in their classrooms.

Final thoughts

Going 1:1 can be a real struggle. There are so many aspects to it, so many choices, so many possibilities of implementation. There is no one best way to go for a 1:1 program in a school, so each educational institution must first identify their organizational needs clearly and only then proceed with the above five steps. Going 1:1 can be a challenging endeavor, but it can definitely turn out to be worth every cent, second and brain cell.

Author: Livia M

Livia is one of the online voices of NEO by CYPHER LEARNING. She writes about education technology for K-12 and higher ed, gamification, BYOD, as well as other ed-tech subjects.