The concept of 1-to-1 computing (sometimes referred to as 1:1) has been around since the late 1990s. However, with the proliferation of inexpensive devices, as well as changes in education requirements and technological developments, the practice is gaining renewed momentum. With this fresh interest in 1-to-1 computing, it’s important for educators to understand what the practice offers and why some are skeptical.
One-to-one computing is an educational practice where a school or institution gives every student a laptop, tablet or mobile device. Popular at universities where students buy a school-issued laptop with preloaded programs and textbooks, 1-to-1 computing is becoming more popular in K-12 schools where the institution purchases the device.
EdWeek credits the popular adoption of 1-to-1 computing today to the changes in state standardized testing and the use of Common Core standards in the United States. The lower prices, mobility of devices, and expansion of function in technological devices over the years since the concept was invented are likely also factors.
Chromebooks, iPads, and other tablets are among the most popular 1-to-1 computing options.
The aim of 1-to-1 computing is to give every student his or her own device for more personalized education. The school-sponsored devices can be loaded with textbooks, programs, and lessons that educators specifically design. The unlimited access that students have to these resources at home and in school allows them more individualized learning at their own pace, uninterrupted access to resources, and a chance to have technological tools they may not otherwise be able to afford.
Proponents argue that 1-to-1 computing also gives students the technological fluency and skills needed for any modern employment. Administrators and teachers can also use the technology to gather more data about the effectiveness of various education methods.
The key to successful 1-to-1 education is more than just giving a student a computer however. As K-12 Blueprint explains, a complete vision is critical to the program’s success. The device itself should only be part of a larger education initiative. The district must have an overarching vision to justify the expense and lead to real outcomes. The ideological vision should influence individual lesson plans, outline parental expectations, and account for technological support needs throughout the district.
Although all 1-to-1 computing programs provide students with new technological opportunities, the success of the entire program can rely on the comprehensiveness of the school’s vision and the implementation style of each teacher.
The idea of 1-to-1 computing can be very appealing to school administrators, but the technological realities of a school can present setbacks.
Larger school districts need to plan on proportional tech support teams to deal with the inevitable issues that arise from network support and individual devices, The Journal noted. School districts can underestimate their tech support needs and end up wasting valuable education time. Tech support is also important for regular updates.
With every student using a device at the same time, all day, in every class, it’s critical that the school has the bandwidth to handle so much traffic. Wireless internet access must be widespread throughout the school and accessible to students at home for the program to be fruitful.
The rapidly evolving and improving devices and software also present a problem. A school district could invest a significant sum in technology only to find it obsolete and unpopular with students in a short time. The style or type of device should also be consistent with the larger vision.
There are a number of other arguments against 1-to-1 computing programs varying in importance from district to district. In some locations, the program can be redundant if students already have ample access to similar devices at home. In other areas, the program can present serious budgetary constraints.
Some argue that 1-to-1 devices correlate to worse test scores, while others connect it to better writing ability. Opponents present the technology as a distraction, while proponents say it provides access to early college courses and free textbooks. With numerous pros and cons, and plenty of disagreements, this debate is likely to continue among educators.