A Guide for 1-to-1 Technology in Schools

July 2, 2021

If you or your school is contemplating switching to a one-device-per-student program, there’s a lot to consider before students get their hands on the devices. There are many important questions and considerations to address both practically and administratively. Taking the time to answer those questions and concerns in advance will make the transition as smooth as possible.

The glaring issue all 1:1 programs confront is the broadband homework gap. If students don’t have access to the internet at home, how can they use their school devices? Because almost 17 million American students lack broadband access, internet access in the community should be the first conversation schools have when considering 1:1 technology in the classroom. After determining that it’s feasible, it’s time to figure out your own 1:1 implementation plan.

What Is a 1:1 Program?

What is the 1:1 laptop program? A 1:1 laptop program is an initiative in which educators provide one laptop, or another device, for every student. The devices are generally tablets or laptops, but Chromebooks have become a popular alternative for those who want laptops at a lower cost. Now, what is a 1:1 school? A 1:1 school includes one device for every student in that school, whether they’re funded by tuition, government grants or the school district itself. 

Origins of 1:1 Programming

The idea of 1:1 schooling began in the late 1990s. In the early 2000s, only a few schools implemented 1:1 computing. By 2006, that number had steadily grown. Those initial years involved basic equipment, as schools had fewer options for technology and relied primarily on laptop computers. 

As the 1:1 trend became an established path for education, technology companies like Microsoft and Apple began educational technology programs. Microsoft’s Showcase Schools and Apple’s Distinguished Schools are programs designed to help reward schools for implementing 1:1 programs and innovative technology into their curriculum.

Current Trends for 1:1 Schools

In a 2020 study of about 500 school districts, nearly 50% of them reported they had 1:1 programs. Trends are certainly increasing, but not as quickly since school districts still face funding and broadband access issues. With the increase in tablet usage and the introduction of the Chromebook, a cloud-based computer, schools have begun to implement different technologies, sometimes by grade level. Generally, tablets are great for elementary schools, and middle and high schools implement laptops or Chromebooks. However, the implementation of 1:1 programs differs across school districts.


benefits of 1:1 technology in schools [list]

Benefits of 1:1 Technology in Schools

The most integral impact of 1:1 technology in the classroom is that it materially benefits students. Though some schools report unsuccessful 1:1 implementation plans, more evidence suggests that the benefits outweigh the risks and initial setbacks. A few of these benefits include:

  • Technology: When each student has their own device, they quickly become comfortable using and navigating different technology.
  • Job preparedness: Implementing a 1:1 program also increases student readiness for the workforce. Having familiarity with technology from an early age means students grow up prepared to understand and use technology in their professional lives. 
  • Internet literacy: Using and having access to the internet increases students’ internet literacy, meaning they can more successfully navigate, research and evaluate information online. 
  • Communication: The use of technology in classrooms can improve teacher-student communication, allowing more ways for teachers to give students feedback.  

The most significant factor in the implementation of 1:1 programs is money. The initiative requires a large initial investment, and not just in devices — schools need technology training, IT staff and broadband. In the long-term, however, 1:1 programs save money. With free apps, like calculators and conversion tools, and other free online learning resources, 1:1 schools spend less money on basic educational necessities. 

Though still in the early stages, 1:1 technology in schools generally returns positive results. Some early research on 1:1 learning in 2010 found that this technique: 

  • Increases student engagement.
  • Improves technology use for teachers and students.  
  • Modestly boosts students’ achievements.

More recent studies reveal these programs have greater benefits in specific areas of study. A number of studies found a positive correlation between state writing scores and technology usage. Students in 1:1 schools tend to perform better on writing tests, and state testing more generally, than those from schools without 1:1 technology. 

What to Consider Before Switching to 1:1

Before switching to 1:1 programming, ensure you have the suitable structures to support technology in the classroom. Introducing tablets and laptops before having the necessary infrastructure can spell disaster and impede the benefits of technology in the classroom.

With laptops and tablets come broken cables, cracked screens and other maintenance issues. Replacing every broken device isn’t a very economical option, so having an IT staff or department to answer technology concerns is crucial. These staff members can help prepare the school for 1:1 by assessing the school’s available power, broadband and cloud storage options.

One of the most critical considerations when switching to 1:1 is the educational content. Educators should evaluate their subjects, curriculum and pedagogy to ensure the switch to online learning is smooth and effective. There are countless ways to integrate devices into lesson plans, but it may require some creativity.

Some examples include:

  • Assigning group projects where students contribute to slideshows or make informational digital posters.
  • Asking students to collaborate on the same document for a writing assignment.
  • Using calculator apps to have students check their math work.
  • Playing online games to reinforce lessons.

While transitioning from a traditional classroom to a 1:1 classroom may be a big change, the essential elements of education remain the same. Technology merely provides more tools for using and assessing student knowledge and can make teachers’ lives easier in the process. 

How to Make the Switch

Now that you know what a 1:1 classroom involves, the benefits of technology in the classroom and important considerations before going 1:1, learn how to implement this strategy in your school or district realistically. Taking the time to do the conceptual and logistical work before choosing and purchasing school devices will help prepare you for and even prevent unexpected consequences of making the switch.

set goals for learning outcomes

Step 1 — Set Goals and Learning Outcomes

As with lesson plans and course schedules, approach the switch to 1:1 by establishing goals and outcomes. There a few different ways you can set technology use goals for your school:

  • Ask teachers to create goals for their classes.
  • Get departments to formulate subject-wide goals.
  • Set school-wide goals.
  • Establish district-wide goals.

You can use one or all of these suggestions in conjunction to establish plans of action for successfully implementing technology in your school. Even if you’d like to have school- or district-wide goals, having teachers create their own goals can help them implement technology into their classes more seamlessly.

Learning outcomes are also essential to discuss with all the educators at your school. Rather than replacing the traditional learning outcomes of each class or grade, consider how to implement technology to help students achieve those outcomes. You may find that learning outcomes look different when implementing 1:1 technology, so establishing them in advance is essential.

Let these questions guide your thinking when establishing learning outcomes with 1:1 technology in the classroom:

  • What specific outcomes do administrators expect from teachers?
  • Will you set technology-specific learning outcomes, or integrate them into general learning outcomes?
  • How will learning outcomes differ based on the technology you adopt?
  • How will you organize learning outcomes? Will it be by grade, class, subject or some combination of those three?
  • How can educators use technology to achieve and evaluate learning outcomes?

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when implementing a 1:1 program. Doing the conceptual and pedagogical work on the front-end will help educators and students understand the benefits and value of switching to 1:1.

Step 2 — Prepare Educators

As the proverbial frontline for 1:1 programs, educators need resources and support from the administration to ensure a smooth transition. Offer professional development and continuing education for teachers using technology in the classroom and ensure they feel supported during and after the switch.

Since most teachers approach lessons with their own unique methods and philosophy, ask them to consider how technology use might disrupt their day-to-day instruction. While this may seem counterintuitive, the most essential preparation you can do is predict potential roadblocks. You can send out a survey or ask for feedback when devising your 1:1 strategy and make a distinct effort to address your educator’s concerns. Additionally, provide resources to those who predict roadblocks — for example, if the math department is concerned about laptops in their classes, offer specific resources on implementing technology.

Though funding challenges might make this difficult, on-hand IT staff and departments can be a huge help to teachers. Having a staff of professionals to address daily technology concerns frees up time and resources for teachers to focus on education. 

Step 3 — Evaluate Infrastructure

In a practical sense, with the implementation of one device per student, it’s wise to ensure your school’s electrical circuit can handle the strain of all those devices. To prepare, you can have a professional electrician or qualified technician assess your school’s wiring. Similarly, a 1:1 program will also increase the demand on your internet capabilities enormously. It’s best to get the right broadband set up so your school’s internet can keep up with the increase in usage.

choose the right device for students

Step 4 — Choose the Right Devices

In general, you have two choices for devices, which are tablets or laptops, but Chromebooks have increased in popularity in schools. Since the needs of grade levels are different, it may be wise to assess which grade levels will benefit more from either device. Younger students up to fourth or fifth grade typically use tablets, while middle and high school students use laptops. Weigh the pros and cons of each device when deciding what to implement in your school.

Pros for these devices include:

  • Tablets: Portability, touchscreen, battery life, ease of use
  • Laptops: Longevity, keyboard, storage, supports high-end software
  • Chromebooks: Lightweight, cloud-based, inexpensive, low-maintenance

There are also cons for these devices, such as:

  • Tablets: Breakable, don’t support specific software, less storage
  • Laptops: Heavy, high-maintenance, expensive
  • Chromebooks: Minimal local storage, not very compatible with Microsoft Word, must have an internet connection to use

Since older students tend to do more advanced work, advanced machines like laptops and Chromebooks work best for them. The tablet’s portability and ease of use make it an excellent choice for younger students. No matter what device you choose for your school, it’s always a good idea to have proper cases for students to transport their devices safely and protect them when they inevitably fall off a desk.

Step 5 — Prepare Students and Parents 

Prepare parents and students for the responsibility of using devices by establishing clear usage guidelines. You can limit or block activity on certain websites at school to prevent misuse, but reinforce that these devices are primarily for schoolwork in the guidelines. For example, ban students from using school devices for gaming, as certain games can take up a lot of storage and distract students. Parents can also assist in supporting usage guidelines at home.

To cover the costs of repairs or replacements, some schools require a deposit. This amount doesn’t cover the cost of the device, but it does ensure additional funding should the student’s device need repairs. It’s also a good idea to have a few backups if a student’s device needs more extensive work.

Though most students these days are incredibly adept at technology, they still need support when implementing it in their work. Instead of one training session to cover everything, consider inserting technology education into the curriculum, teaching students how to use the devices as they work with them. 

Step 6 — Transition Your School

Once you’ve followed these steps, you’re ready to transition your school into a 1:1 program. With all the benefits and the documented success of 1:1 technology in the classroom, you can be sure it’s the right choice for your school.

use PowerGistics charging stations for your 1:1 school

Use PowerGistics Charging Stations at Your 1:1 School

When you have devices in the classroom, you need a place to charge and store them when they aren’t in use. Instead of tripping over wires or fighting over wall outlets, use PowerGistics charging stations. Our Towers come in sleek, space-saving designs that can be wall-mounted, stationary or mobile. Antimicrobial coatings help fight germs, and individual stations and cord management prevents the need to touch anything except your own device. You can even add a bit of school spirit with our custom color options.

PowerGistics charging stations are simple and effective — their easy-to-use design cuts down on damage when students return their devices, and quick deployment saves valuable class time. The USB Towers also save schools money as they don’t need to purchase two power blocks for each device. Students can take home their own power cord and charge their devices in the Towers at school. To speed up deployment and prevent crowding, schools can install multiple stations in classrooms so students can maintain distance and quickly retrieve their devices.

The most crucial benefit of PowerGistics charging stations is that they support a fluid learning environment, preventing wasteful interruptions to class time such as uncharged or damaged devices. We’re so sure you’ll love PowerGistics charging Towers that we offer demo Towers at reduced prices for new customers — perfect for schools transitioning to 1:1 programs!

Request a demo today, or contact us for a free, no-obligation quote!

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Further Reading

Education Technology Trends

A Guide to Classroom Design: Maximize Space and Limit Traffic

15 School Renovation and Construction Tips

How to Create a Highly Effective Learning Environment

33 Best Teacher Quotes of All-Time

Examples of Technology in the Classroom

How to Incorporate School Spirit in Your Classroom

Should Students Leave Laptops at School?