(the most) Frequently Asked Question: 1:1 programs

There is an undeniable trend towards offering 1:1 programs in Iowa school districts, wherein each student in some or all grade levels is assigned a district-owned laptop or tablet.  The most frequently asked big-picture question I get on a regular basis from ADM staff members, students, and community members is whether ADM will, at some point, launch a 1:1 program.  Hopefully this ™FAQ will address many of the questions that abound with regards to 1:1 at ADM.

1 to 1 in IowaHow many districts offer 1:1 programs?  Based upon the most recent data compiled by AEA 267 in Waterloo, 191 school districts in Iowa had 1:1 programs at at least one grade level in 2014-2015, which is more than half of the districts in the state.  While some 1:1 programs in Iowa cover all students in grades K-12, many only include secondary grade levels (6-12), high school grade levels (9-12), or upper-elementary through secondary (3-12).  Iowa’s 1:1 adoption rate is higher than most states, although Maine has a statewide 1:1 program that provides devices to all students.  A full map and database are available here.  

What is the purpose of a 1:1 program?  At a fundamental level, the purpose that drives all of our decisions is improvement of educational opportunities and outcomes for our students.  There are many well-documented 1:1 program successes, both in peer-reviewed research and experiential accounts from nearby districts.  In many of these districts, student engagement has increased, incidence of behavioral problems and attendance issues have declined, and student performance (in terms of test scores and GPA) has improved.  Teachers have reported that integration of technology and teaching 21st century skills is easier, more seamless, and more reliable, and teacher and student technology skill levels have shown improvement, while also bridging a digital divide that can threaten a student’s ability to succeed in post-secondary education and in the workplace.  That said, there are also many stories of 1:1 program failures, where districts have not seen these gains.  At the risk of oversimplification, it is crucial that any 1:1 program respond to the educational needs of the district, rather than vice versa.  With appropriate planning, targeted and ongoing professional development, and consideration of classroom management and online safety concerns, a 1:1 program can be a very effective tool for use within and outside of the classroom.

Does ADM have a 1:1 program?  Not at this time.

Will ADM ever have a 1:1 program?  That remains to be seen, but what is certain is that a committee will convene in the Fall of 2015 to evaluate what our “next generation” technology offerings will look like in the district.  This committee will be comprised of ADM faculty, staff, and administrative employees, the district’s director of technology, and parent and student representatives.  The possibility of a 1:1 program will certainly be a topic of discussion for this committee.  For more information, check back to the technology blog for an article in the coming days on our PPEL 10-year plan.

What devices to districts provide?  Device offerings vary widely by district, including Mac and Windows laptops, Chromebooks, iPads, Android tablets, and netbooks.

… and students take these devices home? Generally, yes.  Some 1:1 programs, particularly at the elementary grade levels, do not involve students taking devices home, but most do.  

imac_repairDon’t devices get broken or lost at an incredible rate?  Based upon the experiences of other districts, not really.  Obviously any technology deployment must consider incidence of damage and loss as it relates to budgeting and insurance, but most districts have seen less than a 5% damage/loss rate per year, which is not substantially different from the damage/loss rates for cart-assigned devices in the buildings, for instance.  Indeed, experience and research shows that students tend to treat individually-assigned devices with more care than devices in a lab or cart, as there is a level of individual accountability and more personalized consequences for a device being lost or rendered non-functional.

How much does a 1:1 program cost?  This is a surprisingly difficult question to answer; anybody who wants a detailed look at cost projections can contact me to get a mind-numbingly complicated spreadsheet of program costs balanced with expense offsets.

Here’s a relatively straightforward explanation, though:

the actual cost of a 1:1 program equals the cost of devices + software + warranties/insurance + any additional technology support or integration support required by the 1:1 program.

the effective cost of a 1:1 program equals the actual cost minus any technology costs that would be incurred if not for the 1:1 program.  

Example: For instance, ADM High School currently has 8 computer labs that are used for specific purposes (computer science lab, PLTW Engineering, PLTW Biomedical Science, publishing, and so forth).  If we went 1:1 with Windows or Mac laptops, we would not have to replace or maintain any of those 8 labs, whereas if we went 1:1 with Chromebooks or iPads, we would need to replace and maintain between 6-8 of those labs.  With no 1:1 program in place, we would need to replace and maintain all 8 labs.

To attach some actual numbers to this, our current status quo (without 1:1) has a device replacement cost of approximately $750,000.  The effective costs of some potential 1:1 scenarios range from $743,000 for a Chromebook/Citrix and K-2 iPad solution to $1,112,000 for a Windows laptop (6-12) / Chromebook (3-8) / iPad (K-2) solution.  Note that these are not recommendations, just two samples from many in my planning documents.  These costs do not include any additional staffing needs of a potential 1:1 program, although our needs in this area would likely be minimal.

Why didn’t ADM go 1:1 when PPEL was passed in 2011?  Voters in our district passed the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy in 2011, which provides approximately $250,000 per year for technology purchases, with the remaining funds going to transportation and related projects.  Through borrowing against the first five years of revenues, we were able to front-load much needed replacement of devices and infrastructure throughout the district.  While 1:1 was discussed as part of the early planning process for PPEL, It was very clear that our needs – our average device age was 8.2 years, our district wired and wireless networks were about 12 years old, and our server infrastructure was aging and inadequate – made an immediate move to 1:1 impossible.

byod-devicesI’m not really into the 1:1 concept.  Are there other alternatives?  Certainly there are, including a technology implementation similar to what we currently have in the district.  Lab and mobile cart-based technology deployments are easier to manage and can be very effective, as can hybrid approaches such as a full-class set of devices in every other classroom, or assigned by department.  Further, some research has indicated that a 2:1 device ratio is actually preferable to 1:1, in that it is more effective at fostering collaboration between students.  Yet another alternative is a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program, wherein students are encourage (or in some places required) to bring their own device to school.  Each of these alternatives, much like 1:1, has relative costs and benefits.  

Are there resources available for me to learn more about 1:1 programs?  Certainly.  You can see more information at the AEA 267 1:1 page, or even register for the Iowa 1:1 Institute conference here.  General information can be found easily via Google; of course, consider the source, as your mileage may vary.  Educators and other interested parties should consider attending the ITEC Conference, which has many sessions specific to 1:1 initiatives, or even the ISTE Conference in Philadelphia this summer.

I hope that this guide will help to answer some of the questions about 1:1 in general and the possibility of 1:1 at ADM.  I’m very excited about the process of exploring our next generation technology deployment, which will commence with committee work in the Fall of 2015.  As always, please reach out to me with questions or if you’d like more information.

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