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1:1 The Next Generation
Author: Pamela Livingston, Author | May 11th, 2011

I've been involved with 1-to-1 hands-on since 2002 when I ran The Peck School's laptop program, which evolved into the publication of my book "1-to-1 Learning: Laptop Programs That Work" in 2006 with an update in 2009. But 1-to-1 in schools has been around longer than that especially if you go back to 1990 when Bruce Dixon, Gary Stager and others were involved with providing laptops to students at Methodist Ladies College in 1990. The 21 years from 1990 to 2011, like the passing of a generation, involves a lot of change.

Star Trek had a generational cycle as well. First there was the TV series with Captain Kirk, Spock and the whole crew. Groundbreaking at the time -- different and innovative! But ultimately the show was cancelled. Then along came Star Trek: The Next Generation with Patrick Stewart, Whoopie Goldberg and a whole new crew, set, along with new worlds and species. Patrick Stewart's famous line, after hearing a convoluted plan by a direct report of how to get out of the latest fiasco was, "make it so." Many iterations of Star Trek followed -- a great place to learn more and see how fans have taken it all further is by visiting the Star Trek Fan Fiction site. If you don't know what fan fiction is, ask any teenager. It's a way to take ideas from your favorite existing book, movie, or series, and write your own stories. By the way, it's a great answer to the complaint of "kids don't read/write anymore" -- because they do. They just write more fluidly when the topic is of personal interest.

Each Generation -- a Bit Different from the Last

How does this relate to 1-to-1? Well, like StarTrek, 1-to-1 has evolved to a place where the original idea has been morphed and adapted so many times by so many people that it's as though there really is no definition of 1-to-1 unless you define it specifically as 1 device in the hands of 1 student. 1-to-1 might be laptops, or Netbooks or slates or tablets or iPads or iPhones or smart phones or...something else coming down the road. It might be BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), it might be school or district provided, it might be spec'ed by the institution and bought by the parents, it might be leased, it might be purchased. And it's likely that a whole slew of people said "make it so" for each of these programs.

From the Trenches...

To get a quick snapshot of what kind of thinking might exist now around 1-to-1, approximately a generation after the first laptop school, I did a short survey and got a sample of 19 schools or districts responding. Public, independent, parochial, and international schools weighed in on what 1-to-1 has meant in their institution. Most all were very happy with their more mature 1-to-1 programs, only a few were going BYOD although most were considering it, and several said it was basically the best thing since sliced bread. Several quotes follow. Alex Inman of The Whitfield School has an interesting program which evolved to using Ubuntu Linux and says, "we are enjoying most of the same benefits as our colleagues using proprietary software...however, we are spending significantly less ...in terms of TCO and management costs." Whitfield began phasing in their 1-to-1 program in 2002.

Alice Barr of Maine reports they receive "tons of visitors" and that they have "created a Student ambassador program, Students do the tours for our visits... and help with professional development." Maine's program also began in 2002.

Erol Mutafov at Alexandria College, Dublin City, Ireland says the goals were to "integrate ICT into the curriculum fully. This has been achieved partly and it is a long process" -- they began in 2006.

Roy Haeger from Wisconsin advises, "Planning is critical, especially in the area of anticipating potential 'speed bumps' such as Internet speed. It's extremely important that staff has bought into the program. We rolled out laptops to teachers a year prio and surveyed staff regarding our plans." Roy's program began this year.

While most of the respondents said they were either thinking of trying a BYOD solution, only a few responded that they tried this route. Preplanning is essential as Patrick Diemar states "we tried this with the seniors ... and our network was too slow for it to continue." Patrick's 1-to-1 started in 2007.

Jim Peterson at Holland Christian Academy in Michgan describes the transformational nature of 1-to-1, "It has changed everything about learning... Most of my teachers would not know where to begin in a non-laptop environment." They began phasing in the program in 2003.

Mary Jeanne Faris in Brussels, Belgium describes how her school is reframing goals, "I would say that our program has met our goals, and now we are in the process of changing our goals to a more rigour standard of usage for teachers and students." Their program started four years ago.

One school in the San Francisco Bay area allowed students to bring their own laptops but now is "starting to think about learning outcomes."

Fort Worth Academy's Darryl Loy says their program, started in 2007, "...has been the most engaging and transforming educational change in the last 100 years of education."

Mike Kenner, superintendent of Todd County Schools in Kentucky, says about their program begun in 2008, "we are still learning but we are convinced this is the right direction to go. PD is critical. We have a team of teachers from each school who receive training directly from Apple and then go back to lead the training in their school."

Shabbi Luthra of the American School of Bombay in Mumbai, India, says of their program begun in 2001, "Hardware continues to evolve along with the program. Our program changes dramatically every year." As to the question of BYOD she says "Yes-- in the future... once all applications are in the cloud, we will ask [students] to bring any device."


If you frequent listservs and Twitter for 1-to-1 trends two buzz topics seem to proliferate: iPads and BYOD. A colleague who went to FETC reported that nearly all the sessions with iPad in the topic were Standing Room Only. Schools are considering the devices from Kindergarten on because of the accessibility of the device by children-- it's so easy to learn-- and because of the many applications. Lucy Gray has created a customized Google search you can use to explore iPads in schools or similar topics, start here.

Right now the concept of Bring Your Own Device, while not new, is appealing in terms of student choice, cost and other factors. Budget cuts are rampant with schools and districts finding providing digital devices to students in the line of fire. Offering students the option to carry a laptop, tablet or handheld can be a solution albeit one that requires much serious planning and consideration.

My opinion on these trends

The technology director in me is concerned about the variety of devices that may be eventually introduced into school networks through BYOD -- but the educator side (which nearly always wins) says this is truly student centered learning. The trick becomes making sure the technology and the network supports the learning and does not dictate the tool, that integrity of data is considered but possibilities for learning are leading the discussing, and that the haves and the have nots do not become a factor with wealthier parents providing newer and better devices than children from economically challenged backgrounds.

As to iPads I think we all need to watch and see what's happening in the classroom. To me one of the big lessons to all of us about schools considering iPads is how easy they are to use. The jury may be out on the applications and how they're going to compete for dollars and whether they will replace or enhance existing 1-to-1 hardware.

It seems both of these are similar to the type of complicated problems brought to Patrick Stewart on The Next Generation. The question is will early-adopting schools "make it so" in enough numbers so that the rest of us can learn and follow. I'm rooting for them.

Pamela Livingston is Product Manager at Tutor.com and author of "1-to-1 Learning: Laptop Programs That Work" www.1-to-1learning.blogspot.com; http://www.1to1schools.net

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