School technology purchasers have several routes.

GUEST COLUMN | by Glenn Collins

One-to-one computing means putting a computer – a PC, laptop, handheld, or tablet PC – into the hands of every student.

For the last several years there has been a sense of urgency to achieve this one-to-one ratio of technology to student because many educators believe it can boost student achievement.

In today’s climate of standardized testing and accountability, it’s more important than ever to ensure that expenditures will impact student learning. 

“The promise of better learning outcomes through one-to-one is only realized if the teachers understand the pedagogy of effectively engaging students through the use of this technology.” 

To be competitive in today’s K-12 learning environment and produce graduates that are equipped to succeed in today’s skilled work force, schools need to give students access to technology that allows them to learn anywhere at any time, and in a manner that best suits their learning style.

The exponential growth in the amount of interactive online learning content available to teachers enables them to utilize blended learning techniques or a flipped classroom approach.

These approaches have been proven to improve learning outcomes, but they also require each student to have access to the appropriate technology. Until a school achieves a one-to-one ratio of computers to students, adopting these approaches is difficult.

Going one-to-one requires considerable investments.

The school must purchase the devices, upgrade their wireless infrastructure, purchase online content and provide professional development to train teachers how to maximize learning in a one-to-one environment.

There is some good news.

The lower cost of devices such as Chromebooks, Windows-based Cloudbooks and tablets has certainly helped many schools get closer to a one-to-one ratio.

However, most schools still lack the budget required to make this happen as quickly as they’d like.

Over the past several years, the federal government’s e-rate program has provided a funding model for schools to help them upgrade their wireless infrastructure to support a one-to-one environment. Schools can also redirect funding (usually textbook funding) to provide access to online content.

4 trends helping schools accelerate 

Today we are seeing four trends that are helping schools accelerate their ability to get to that desired one-to-one ratio or a hybrid version of the one-to-one model.

1. BYOD (bring your own device) model: In schools where students have the economic means, we are seeing a trend toward a BYOD model. In this model the student is asked to acquire and bring their own device to school, usually a Chromebook, iPad, MAC, Android or Windows device. The school then provides loaner devices to students who may not have the economic ability to provide their own. This model is somewhat challenging because of how complex it is to support a wide range of products. There can also be a wide variety of learning experiences based on the quality of the device the student chooses.

2. Hybrid one-to-one model: We are seeing a number of schools purchasing additional devices each year in an attempt to increase the ratio and get as close as possible to one-to-one. In this model the devices typically are kept in a specific classroom and are shared by students for specific subjects. In some cases, they are stored in mobile carts that allow them to be easily transported between classrooms. Often this model is used in blended learning classroom environments, where the class is broken into groups. One group is provided devices for online learning while the others work directly with the teacher. These groups rotate through the different activities in the classroom all getting a turn to use the devices as learning tools.

3. Device-leasing model: Obviously the most effective way to move to a one-to-one environment is to provide all students with their own devices all at once, which has prompted many schools to adopt 3-year or 4-year leasing programs. This model allows schools to acquire up to three times as many devices all at once and results in a lower cost of ownership because the school can deploy the same type of devices to all students, which lowers support and maintenance costs. This is particularly true when deploying Chromebooks because it is so simple to deploy and support a large number of these devices at once without putting too much burden on the IT support staff.

4. Refurbished device model: Another way to reduce costs is to purchase refurbished devices rather than new ones. Schools should make sure they are purchasing from a company that also provides a warranty and has a reputation for quality customer service. Purchasing refurbished devices can cut the up-front equipment costs by up to one-half.

No road trip without this vital element 

Whichever route a school or district chooses, it is essential to also budget time and money for the professional development required to help teachers learn how to use the devices and teach content in a one-to-one environment.

The promise of better learning outcomes through one-to-one is only realized if the teachers understand the pedagogy of effectively engaging students through the use of this technology. 

Luckily, the edtech industry has expanded to meet the demands of school districts going one-to-one. Schools should seek out industry partners that provide comprehensive IT services, and consider providers of low-cost devices, refurbished devices, reliable customer support, leasing programs, and opportunities for professional development. 

The number of one-to-one programs in schools will continue to grow because they open up new opportunities for teaching and learning, and help prepare students for college or careers.

To get to one-to-one faster, schools just need to invest a bit of time up front to find a model that works for their needs and edtech partners to help them meet their goals. 

Glenn Collins is Executive VP of Business Development at CDI, a Google Education Partner supporting schools with deployment services, professional development, software and custom app bundles for their Chromebook initiatives. Glenn was one of the pioneers in the personal computer industry, selling some of the first PCs ever manufactured. He now has more than 35 years of experience providing clients with the best technology-based solutions.