1:1 Models: Options abound

This afternoon I had a chat with Julio Ojeda-Zapata:  of the Pioneer Press in St. Paul about how my school uses technology to enhance the teaching and learning process.  While we were chatting, I realized that most non-education folks (and some educators as well) really don’t know what a 1:1 program is.  Maybe that’s because there are so many models.

Here’s a breakdown of models I’ve heard about…

Access – 1:1 can mean many things.  Essentially, it means having enough of a device for every student to have one.  Here are some access models that can be considered 1:1 :

  • Class set – Every child has access to the hardware for a specific class.  In the fall before my former school went 1:1, we did this in a 7th grade science class.  The teacher was given a cart of iBooks assigned specifically to his room.  He had 1-2 loaners in case one was down.  In every class, he had enough iBooks for every child.  When they went home or to their next class, the computers stayed in the room.
  • 1:1 during the school day – This was the model we used with our 6th graders at the start of the school year.  As the first year 6th grade had 1:1  as well as our entry grade, it made sense to phase in the access, at least for the first year.  It made sure the majority of the students had a feel for what was expected during the school day and were ready tackle home expectations before laptops went home.  It also gave parents time to get used to the idea and implement strategies for home tech management we discussed earlier in the year.
  • 1:1 during the school year – This is what we now use in all of our middle school grades.  The school owns the laptops, so we issue them to student as early as possible for classroom use.  Students have them all day, every day, at school and beyond.  Shortly before the year ends, students fill out a form describing repair needs so the computer can be refurbished and reimaged over the summer.
  • 1:1 family-owned – The hardware is purchased by the family, so the students have access 24/7, 365.  In the model used by our upper school, the school determines the hardware to be used and families purchase from the school.  Other schools set a standard and require that families provide a piece of hardware that meets or exceeds that standard.  The standard usually describes a base model or describes what software a machine must have installed and be able to run.  Some of these models are multi-platform or even multi-device.

Speaking of devices, 1:1 often means some sort of personal computing device, but it’s not limited to laptops.  Possibilities:

  • Laptop PC – These are traditional laptops that generally run some flavor of Windows OS; some run a flavor of Linux.  Some schools go with the cheapest consumer-grade model in an attempt to make 1:1 most affordable.  As consumer-grade hardware is usually not intended for regular, daily use by students, this model may need significant support/repair.  At SPA, we’ve had poor experience with consumer-grade machines (had a bad batch of Dells around 5-6 years ago), and have since gone to professional grade machines (at a significant cost increase in the short run but decreased repair/support cost).  A few schools use a ruggedized laptop, such as the Toughbook series from Panasonic.
  • Mac laptop – If you’re a Mac fan, you know there are essentially two grades of laptops made by Apple – Macbook and Macbook Pro.  Most schools doing 1:1 use the standard Macbook.  Others go for the Pro for the extra power and perceived durability of a professional grade machine.  Still others require parents to purchase the Macbook with an option of purchasing the Pro instead.
  • TabletPC – These are PCs with the capability to swivel the screen so students can use some sort of stylus to write on it.  Most schools doing this are running some flavor of Windows.  Although some tablets run Linux, most are running XP Tablet or Windows 7.  The two primary advantages of tablet computing are the ability to swivel (kids can’t hide behind a screen) and a documents can be “inked” with handwriting or drawing by students or teachers.
  • Netbooks – The mother of the netbook, the OLPC, was created specifically for student use.  In the past two years or so, it’s generated a ton of offspring from numerous companies.  Many vendors of traditional laptops now make a netbook grade machine.  Most of these are neither ruggedized nor intended for classroom use, but the price-point is hard to resist.  The only netbook I know of made specifically for children and instructional use is the ClassmatePC from Intel.  This comes in two basic models – the traditional ClassmatePC (now available with 10.1″ screen) and the ClassmatePC Convertible (which my school currently uses in grades 6 & 7).  Aside from price, advantages of netbooks include longer battery life, light weight, student-friendly size, kid-sized keyboard, ease of portability, and lack of bells/whistles (no CD/DVD drive & fewer things to break).
  • Handhelds – PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) were the first handhelds.   Close to 10 years ago, my former school piloted a classroom 1:1 with Handspring PDAs.  We attached external keyboards for basic word processing.  We had a few math and collaborative apps, but general uses were somewhat limited.  Today, iPods are more common.  Apple has always had a good relationship with education.  As such, many educators are Apple fans.  Shortly after Apple introduced iPods, educators began to find ways to implement them in the classroom.  Soon, classrooms began their own podcasts.  Lots of educational organizations did as well.  With audio-books and educational podcasts increasing in availability, 1:1 iPod implementations became feasible.  With the intro of the iPod Touch and the ability to run hundreds of educational of apps, instructional adoption began to increase.  So many students already had them that they became a simple way to make 1:1 viable for many classrooms.
  • Slates & Ereaders – Think iPads, Kindles, Nooks or tablets without keyboards attached.  These have lots of advantages, however durability can be an issue.  I haven’t seen one of these implementations in k-12, but the possibilities are intriguing.  Now that Apple is in the arena, there are many educators chomping at the bit to get started.  I’m hoping this will lead to a transformation of the electronic textbook and create something really revolutionary.
  • Word Processors – Word processing was one of the first application of student-used classroom technology.  Over 10 years ago, schools began to issue 1:1 personal word processors, such as the AlphaSmart and Apple eMate.

Support models for 1:1 vary widely.  Before implementing a 1:1, schools need to have a plan to address the following questions:

  • What happens when it breaks?
  • What software fixes will be supported (if any – some schools just reimage)?
  • Who fixes it?  Will the school retain repair/technicians or will students support the 1:1?  Will the vendor have service people come to the school?
  • Which repairs, if any, are done in-house?  Which repairs require an RMA/send-in?  Who facilitates RMA?
  • Who pays for the repair?  Is there an extended warranty?  No fault, break/fix or parts only?
  • What do students/teachers do while machine is being repaired?  Is there a loaner pool?  How long is acceptable for a student to be out of commission?  How is missed work made-up?
  • Do we fix or replace?  (Some hardware is less expensive to replace than repair, as much as this may be a bad environmental choice.)
  • What is the replacement cycle?  (Most extended warranties are 3 year, however many schools want a machine to last four years – typical span of high school.)
  • What software will be supported?
  • Will students have admin rights on the machines?  If no, what about home printers and wireless access?  If yes, will they be permitted to install software?
  • How will home use be supported, if at all?  Much of what is done at home impacts success of homework – home printers, wireless access, etc.
  • What peripherals will be necessary?  Headsets? Flash drives? Bags? Cameras? Who pays for them?
  • What parts will be easily lost?  Chargers? Styluses? Will parents be encouraged to purchase a spare? Will they be required to pay for replacement?
  • How will assets and repairs be tracked?  (You’d be surprised how valuable a good online helpdesk can be!)
  • How will students, parents, and teachers be trained?
  • What professional development will be necessary before and during implementation to make the program successful?  Will it be provided internally and/or externally?  When will this happen?
  • How will equipment be stored when not in use?  Closet?  Carts?  Secured room?  Keep in mind that a large school could easily have $1,000,000 of hardware in a single room over the summer.
  • Where will devices be charged?  (Make sure you know local fire codes!  I’ve seen schools with retractable extension cords hanging above desks and orange extension cables with powerstrips on the floor.  In many states, neither of these would be permitted in a school.)
  • Will current furniture be appropriate when hardware is in use?  Will special furniture be necessary?

Recently I’ve read more and more about schools/districts trying to implement 1:1s by requesting parents to provide a device of their choice (any of the above as long as it could access the Internet via school wireless)…  That’s another blog post altogether!

For those of you involved in 1:1 programs, what models am I missing?  Is there something out there I haven’t heard of yet?

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