Here are five golden recommendations for schools that would like to initiate the 1:1 program but have concerns about the cost:
1. Phase in the program: Decide on a class level. This could be the 4th or 5th grade for primary schools, or the 9th grade for high schools. Add one grade level each year. For example, if you started with the 9th grade, continue with the 9th and 10th grades the following year. A gradual progression will not only help keep your budget under control, but also allow the time and the possibility to create your digital content, prepare your students for digital citizenship, and introduce your teachers to many pedagogical approaches and technologies which they may not have used before. To start with one grade level will also help you structure a prototype for the process. I saw that in some schools, the program was started with a single section or discipline, but I feel that such a practice would mean denying our students’ and teachers’ right of equal access to resources and technologies.
2. Limit the physical location: Reliable and redundant connectivity is essential for the healthy implementation of the program. To provide stable and fast internet connection to the teachers and the students, and to create a healthy and eco-friendly environment, the quality of the networking devices is important. This, no doubt, increases the cost. Instead of making any concession to quality, a more effective solution would be to limit the physical space (e.g. a single building, floor or hallway), and to expand it gradually, similar to phasing in the grade levels.
3. BYOD(Bring Your Own Device): Rather than providing or lending the devices to your students, ask them to bring their own device. To ensure the effective implementation of the program, set the minimum requirements for the devices, suggest one or two models to parents, update this information frequently, implement your digital citizenship program, and encourage your students to claim ownership of their device and take responsibility for its care.
4. Student Leadership for Technical Support: The more devices in school, the more demand for technical support from the IT department. We observed that the students’ and teachers’ technical needs and questions usually concern the use of the devices, and that the solution takes less than 2 minutes in most cases. Instead of the students and teachers going to the IT help desk for every problem, you can bring the technical support to the classroom. Ask your students for help. You will see that they are more eager to help than you would expect. Organize a student technology team, with minimum two students from each class section. Remember, these volunteer students will join the program enthusiastically, not only to give technology support, but also to become leaders. You can offer additional technology training to motivate your students, and allow them to become leaders at various school events. You can even give them credits for participation in community service.
5. Use PD opportunities offered by vendors like Microsoft: One of the most important steps of the program is definitely to create professional development opportunities for teachers. Many companies like Microsoft offer free resources and training. Partners in Learning is a perfect example. Thanks to this platform that brings together many educators. You can get answers to your questions and access the resources that you need. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel!
And last, I would like to add that, in my opinion, the critical point about running the 1:1 program healthily from the financial aspect isn’t to invest a small amount of money in it, but to consider if the money, the workforce and the resources that you invested make a real difference in adding value to the learning experience.