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One-to-one initiatives require a “core vision”

By December 10, 2012June 13th, 20165 Comments

4.1.1Leslie Wilson co-chairs the National Steering Committee of One-to-One Directors and facilitates networking and collaboration among one-to-one visionaries. As a founding member and CEO of the One-To-One Institute based in Lansing, Mich., she created and implemented model programs and services based on Michigan’s Freedom to Learn Program.  

While leading Michigan’s one-to-one teaching and learning initiative, Leslie recruited McREL to facilitate technology training for the state and Leading for Technology staff. We are reposting her  blog as a resource for schools, districts, and states that are implementing or considering one-to-one initiatives.

You’ve Got ‘Tablets’ and Now You’re 1:1? Really?
By Leslie Wilson

More and more districts are acquiring ‘tablets and saying ‘we are now 1:1’. I always ask what that means. What is 1:1? The definitions are many as districts glom on to sexy, inexpensive, long-life battery, lightweight devices instead of foundational, robust, multi-tasking, creativity devices (which also by the way, are lightweight, have long-life batteries, etc., etc.). One-to-One Institute’s work amplifies the message that a quality, student-centered 1:1 employment is complex, transformative work. The focus points are teaching and learning and not hardware, software, and apps. A shared vision, strategic project plan and leader must accompany the program from its embryonic inception. What are the goals? How will they affect the current culture and expectations? What kind of messaging, practices and policies need to accompany this effort?

To transform teaching and learning to a student centered, personalized instructional setting, there are key components—project plan elements—that have to be addressed to be successful.  Leaders need to know, understand and guide the ‘change’ process. A 360 degree professional learning program must be embedded for all stakeholders. Teachers who will need to change their practices from adult-centered, static systems to student driven, experiential operations require time, guidance and learning communities to ensure the shift of practice. And overarching policies must direct the practices.

Human and funding capacities are also of primary importance. How will we acquire and deploy devices?  Maintain/repair them?  Refresh them? Scale out our program? What about battery replacement? Yes, even the ‘tablets’ have batteries that die. Do we buy a new one for $100 (1/3 or ¼ cost of a new tablet) or do we have a plan for replacing all of them in 18-24 months? Do we lease or purchase? What in-house funds can we reallocate to this program (if it is a priority)? What do administrators, teachers, parents/guardians, etc., need to know and do differently in this changed state?

At a time when school funding is in crisis, stakeholders need to understand ‘why’ their schools are investing in technologies when staff is being laid off and programs being set aside. Calling on and sharing research and best practices will be crucial to district’s messaging. If tablets are the chosen devices, a district must be prepared to provide technologies for students to create, multi-task, store and produce robust results/activities in addition to what they will do on the limited functionality tablets…and they need to honestly share this need and solutions to provide additional device support.

There is a much bigger picture and quality impact on education with authentic one-to-one implementations. It has to be about core vision, beliefs and strategies that complement what’s needed for learning and producing in the 21st century. It is not as simple as buying a cool tool. We can all have cool tools and have the same old, same old education system resulting in the same old, same old results.

Leslie Wilson, CEO One-to-One Institute  Read more of her blog.

McREL is a non-profit, non-partisan education research and development organization that since 1966 has turned knowledge about what works in education into practical, effective guidance and training for teachers and education leaders across the U.S. and around the world.


  • I have a 21st century classroom with a class set of android tablets. Our school is buzzing with the 1:1 idea, and you’re absolutely right. There are things I have found the tablets help with, but there are still several core developments that must be handled first. It is my hope that as we embark on envisioning a 1:1 environment, we take into account much of what you said.

  • Jim Friederich says:

    Hello Ms. Wilson,
    I’m replying to this post as part of a 3-day course given by McRel in Denver, CO. We were asked to pick an article and respond to it to explore blogging. I liked your charactertization of the application of technology as creating an environment for 1:1 instruction. As a second career special education teacher who spent 25 or so years developing and implementing new technology in organizations large and small, I’d love to get your opinion on the following observation. Specifically, why is it that schools, districts, the K-12 industry focus the application of new technology and processes on the classroom when the real benefits of building platforms of ed technology are at the back of the house? For example, the big deal in every other industry from selling coffee to trading currencies is big data – the idea that gathering and analyzing billions of data sets leads to better insight about making operations more efficient and effective. By comparison, in K-12, there is no big data plan where districts collect data from a variety of assessments, analyze it, and use that information to guide instruction. Instead, teachers collect some data in a variety of formats, look at it sporadically, pass some on to administrators, and then go back to focusing on delivering the proscribed content in the proscribed time. It seems most inefficient as content delivered may or may not meet the needs of the students in the room. In sort, big data is the tool that leads to true 1:1 instruction while also leaving teachers more time to teach. There are many more applications that would do the same.
    Best regards,
    Jim Friederich

  • Neisha says:

    I think we have to move with the students and their fascination and need for technology. It is apart of their daily lives. As technology up grades – so do we as teachers to create life long learners of our students (as we are modeling our up grades in technology – learning new tricks)

  • Sandra Wactor says:

    I work with students that have severe and profound intellectual disabilities. Technology plays a vital role in our children with special learning needs. I have a 21st century classroom with an interactive whiteboard and ipad. In addition to the above mentioned technology, we incorporate assistive technology that help our students to read, write, count, do science projects, and so much more. Each child is able to participate, learn, and succeed in the classroom. This is why our school invests in technologies. It is true in your article that the bigger picture is about core vision, beliefs and strategies that complement what’s needed for learning and producing in the 21st century.

  • Leslie D. says:

    Even though this blog post is nearly two years old, the sentiments expressed remain the same even now. I feel as though certain districts have led the 1:1 wave and others have followed them/used what they have done as part of their decision making process. I work for a medium-large school district in Wisconsin, and while our district may be one of the last to implement a 1:1 program in the state, I truly believe our thought process of putting teaching and learning, creation-based apps not content based, and applying the SAMR model has made us treat 1:1 not just as a fad but as an embedded new way to help students learn.

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