The Perfect 1 to 1 Program

I recently spoke at the European Laptop Institute conference in The Netherlands. This conference included hundreds of teachers and administrators from around the world who are involved in 1 to 1 programs. I have attended and presented and many such conferences and this would be a good time to reflect on common themes that arise.

First of all, if you are not familiar with the term “1 to 1” (aka 1:1) it usually means a laptop program where each student has their own computer. So the ratio of laptops per student is 1:1. Of course this is changing quickly to not only men laptops but all sorts of mobile computing devices. For this post, I will use the term laptop to mean any type of mobile computer.

 

Every 1 to 1 school has a different way of handling the program but here are some of the most common methods.

  • The perfect 1 to 1 programSchool supplies the laptops:  In this model, the school purchases computers in bulk and hands them out to the students just like a textbook.  Typically the school operates a help desk and is responsible for every aspect of maintaining the computers. This includes handling every facet of break/fix.The advantage to this model is the high level of consistency and control. The downside is the cost and the amount of technical support needed to run such a program. In short, there is a high total cost of ownership (TCO).
  • Students purchase specific model: This model requires students to purchase a particular model of computer which usually changes slightly every year. For example, all ninth grade students would purchase the exact same model of computer. The school negotiates with the computer company to make this happen smoothly and at the lowest cost. The student purchase model is most often seen in private schools. In this scenario, the school operates a helpdesk and is responsible for technical support an break/fix.The advantage to this model is that students take personal ownership in their computer and treat it with more care. There is also a high level of consistency and control. The downside is the high level of technical support needed, just like the school owned model. The TCO is lower than the completely school owned model.
  • Bring your own laptop (BYOL) model: This model allows students to bring any computing device. Many school put some parameters. For example, I use Flash-based websites quite a bit and students having a device that won’t run Flash is not an option for me. With this model, provisions for students who can’t provide their own device must be made. Schools operate a helpdesk with the disclaimer that they will do their best to help but are not responsible for the upkeep and technical support for the computer.The advantage is the relatively low TCO and not having to run a computer maintenance operation for student laptops. The disadvantage is it is often difficult for teachers to manage class with all the various devices. In addition, since every student will have a different software package, a cloud computing model is ideal…which involves planning and training.

 

So what is the best 1 to 1 program? The answer is the program that is designed firmly focused on your school mission. I want to say that again but this is crucial. Start with your mission. Then, develop your goals and objectives that are rooted in that mission. Finally, decide which model will help you meet those goals. I have listed three models but you may design your own…as long as it points to your mission. This also includes the decision about what type of devices will be allowed. Will students using their phone instead of a laptop help achieve your mission? I have seen many schools and districts rush into a program and when asked how the 1 to 1 program directly impacts their mission…there is silence. That is a program doomed to failure.

If you are considering a 1 to 1 program or want feedback on your current program, contact me. I would be glad to help.