Creating possibilities by implementing 1:1 learning

Pamela Livingstone

Pamela Livingston is Senior Product Manager at Schoolwires. Pamela has directed technology for K-12 schools, and authored ISTE’s “1-to-1 Learning: Laptop Programs That Work,” and co-wrote a chapter on 1-to-1 for the Jossey-Bass’ “What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Media.” She’s written for TechLearning, Digital Directions, and Learning & Leading with Technology and has given 1-to-1 keynotes in Australia, Canada, Israel, and South Korea and at Penn State University, University of Michigan/Dearborn, the Lausanne Laptop Institute, and South. Pamela leads the Microsoft Partners in Learning 1-to-1 Hot Topic blog.

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As 1:1 learning becomes more predominant in schools worldwide, teacher and author Pamela Livingston reflects on the origins of 1:1, and examines how teachers are utilising it today.

[As seen in the February 2014 edition of our magazine

We’re in the twenty-fourth year of educators recognising the ratio of 1:1 to mean one digital device to one child, available at school, at home and anywhere. The very first example of 1:1 was at Ladies Methodist College in Melbourne, Australia when these visionary educators took the bold step of providing laptops to every 5-12 grade student. This is fully chronicled in the book “Never Mind the Laptops”.

Since then, there have been successes and stumbles, but one thing is certain: the school, district or region considering 1:1 needs to set the goals and direction clearly and completely to ensure meaningful educational use. To do this it is important to ask:

“Once we have digital devices that are available throughout the school, what will we do with them?”

The answer to this question should be determined after deep reflective thinking. Just as educators teach inquiry-based learning so that the questions from students are not surface but of depth and substance, so should the educational institution embark on deep and meaningful discussion to answer this question. Mission and educational goals should drive the answer but so should the possibilities that might not have existed before. No school improvement programme has the depth and potential for education change than providing digital devices to every student and teacher in a school.

Answers can come from thorough research on what works and what doesn’t, especially from Project Red. We also have one of the previously largest programmes, the State of Maine, with a long-range researched programme. Other answers can come from pockets of excellence such as the Urban School in San Francisco which took the availability of laptops for students into new and amazing heights when they began reaching out to their community and interviewing Holocaust survivors. The Urban School is now getting students to interview adults to tell their stories of the civil rights movement and historic moments. What an amazing example of students making a difference in their local and national community, and attaining international renown. No one else has done what they have done. This possibility only arose once students had digital devices.

Another exemplar is the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. Project-based, inquiry-driven and student-centered, the digitally device-equipped students design and run projects, fully empowered by mobile digital devices. They’ve received visits and interest from Barack Obama and many others, as the school achieves great success in an urban space with a meaningful and reflective approach to learning. Visiting a computer lab once a week could never offer this type of depth.

At my former employer, The Peck School in Morristown, NJ laptops were originally considered as a homework aide. Students with busy lives were having trouble completing homework, especially with travelling requirements from being part of sports teams and sometimes living in more than one home because of divorce or separation. Laptops provided the vehicle for taking the work anywhere, turning in homework electronically, and keeping the artefacts and resources of learning in school with students at all times. But Peck did not stop there. Teachers worked hard to incorporate these digital devices into nearly all aspects of teaching and learning. When I worked at Peck and people wished to visit to see laptop use, I just had to be sure there weren’t tests happening in specific classrooms on the days of visit, as there would be laptops used otherwise.

Teachers often find differentiated learning to be accomplished more fully using 1:1 because different students can be assigned different parts of a unit according to interest or level, and then work in that group on their own digital devices using all the resources available.

St. Thomas Episcopal Parish School in Coral Gables, Florida used laptops to further their student of life in Ancient Mesopotamia, a signature yearly project. Students can learn different aspects of this ancient civilization and then come back together with their contributions to the whole project. Every student is at a level playing field with devices and resources to empower their learning.

I visited NSW Australia and saw some excellent uses of 1:1, including students emigrating to Australia and participating in a culture and speech class. Their digital devices allowed them to create persuasive and informative speeches about their process of learning the culture and language of their new country. Additionally, creating a record of their learning in progress allowed them to return to each speech and understand their own growth and progress. Because technology creates this type of record, the arc of learning can be understood and evaluated not just by the teacher, but also by the learner. Having this personal and mobile device meant learning was possible in multiple ways and in multiple spaces.

The possibilities are enormous once reflective educators consider how the ratio of 1:1 can open up learning in new ways. Don’t hold back, embrace 1:1 and see what can happen.

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What’s the current state of 1:1 affairs in your school? Let us know below.

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