1 to 1 computing

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Models of ICT provision | Desktop provision | Mobile loan | 1:1 | BYOD | BYOT

1:1 computing refers to every learner having ‘personal ownership’ of an internet enabled computing device. The school specifies what the device will be, and coordinates their provision. Every learner will have ‘the same’ device. The devices may be purchased by the school, leased by parents, or bought outright by parents.


One-to-one computing programmes have been launched periodically around the world at least since 1989 (Fluck (2011)). These launches have been accompanied by statements of what they seek to achieve (Gallasch, 2012). Larry Cuban (2012) identifies four broad objectives given by school districts that have invested in 1:1 technology:

1. Devices will motivate students to work harder, gain more knowledge, improve skills, and be more engaged with school.

2. Students will be prepared for a world of work that is increasingly information-driven.

3. Devices will level the playing field for the disadvantaged.

4. Devices will transform teaching.

Evaluators have pointed to positive impacts from 1:1 projects, overwhelmingly pointing to student motivation and engagement (e.g., Argueta et al, 2011; Bebell and O'Dwyer, 2010; Clarke, 2012; Fluck, 2011; Heinrich, 2012; Twining et al, 2005) and to improvements in communication and collaboration (e.g., Argueta et al 2011; Clarke, 2012; Heinrich, 2012; Twining et al, 2005). However, any improvements in achievement have been found to be modest (Argueta et al, 2011; Bebell and O'Dwyer, 2010). Where the views of teachers, parents and students were sought, the students were most positive about the programme or its impacts, parents were less so, and teachers the least positive (Clarke, 2012; Heinrich, 2012). Larkin (2012) provides insight that sometimes the outcomes sought can be more successfully achieved through a less all-encompassing programme, in this case 1:2 computing.

For Cuban (2012) these findings are a mere fig leaf attempting to cover the bareness of the research evidence. Technology solutions are often chosen, he asserts, in order that schools or districts can look innovative, rather than through any evidence-based procurement process. Other critics of 1:1 programmes have also raised objections that these programmes emphasise technology over learning, and that the technology distracts from learning, leading to classroom management issues (Jackson, 2009).

Weston and Bain (2010) acknowledge the criticisms of Cuban and others, but point to the large budgets and widespread deployments of more recent years and claim that because of this, these programmes stand a far greater chance of success than previously. However, technology change within education has tended merely to automate the status quo and so has not produced any lasting transformation.

Many of the authors present key factors to ensure that a programme is successfully implemented. These include:

1. The programme must be well-led and adequately financed (Bebell and O'Dwyer, 2010; Jackson, 2009). Bring your own device (BYOD), especially utilising cell phones can be a low-cost solution, allowing the school or district to buy devices only for those without Quillen (2010).

2. The programme must be implemented in a systematic and planned way (Argueta et al, 2011; Twining et al, 2005; Weston and Bain; 2010).

3. The whole school community (teachers, students, parents, governors) need to be engaged in the process (Argueta et al, 2011; Weston and Bain, 2010), and especial attention needs to be given to gaining parental support and dealing with their concerns (Jackson, 2009; Schaffhauser, 2011).

4. Teachers are an essential element in the process, implementation will fall mainly on their shoulders Bebell and O'Dwyer (2010). Therefore staff development is key (Argueta et al, 2011; Jackson, 2009). Also their need to control the classroom can make them wary of any BYOD solution Russell (2012).

5. The technology should be used across the curriculum and not be restricted to a few areas (Twining et al, 2005; Weston and Bain, 2010).

6. Technical issues will inevitably arise, but are often felt to be the most easily fixed Heinrich (2012). However it is important that the network infrastructure is robust enough to cope with the increased traffic (Argueta et al, 2011;Jackson, 2009).

7. Safety and security are perennial concerns that also have to be addressed through provision of secure storage, and staff and student training (Argueta et al, 2011;Jackson, 2009) along with adoption of Responsible use policies.

8. A final piece of advice is that at all stages in the process, it is important to keep in mind the learning goals that were expected to be achieved at the start Stites (2012).


We are starting to develop guidance on digital technology strategies, based on analysis of research we have carried out.

The eLearning Foundation has produced a useful set of advice on moving towards a 1:1 strategy (Word document). They are anti BYOD/BYOT - not entirely sure why, but their funding does depend upon schools setting up 1:1 schemes with their help.

Related 'articles'

Argueta et al (2011) Laptop Initiatives: Summary of Research Across Six States. Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, North Carolina State University.

Bebell and O'Dwyer (2010) Educational Outcomes and Research from 1:1 Computing Settings. Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment 9(1).

Clarke (2012) Tablets For Schools Research – Key Findings. London: Family Kids and Youth.

Cuban (2012) Answering the big question of new technology in schools: Does it work? Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice. Blog.

Flores and Hourcade (2009) UNDER DEVELOPMENT: One Year of Experiences with XO Laptops in Uruguay. ACM Interactions, Vol. 16, No. 4, pp.52-55.

Fluck (2011) Laptop classes in some Australian government primary schools. Australian Educational Computing, Vol.26, No.1.

Fluck et al (2012) Calculus in elementary school: an example of ICT-based curriculum transformation. Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 31(2), 159-174. Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Gallasch (2012) School ensures pupils keep up with the times. The (Tasmanian) Examiner, 27th June 2012.

Heinrich (2012) The Ipad as a tool for education. Naace report.

Jackson (2009) One-To-One Computing: Lessons Learned,Pitfalls to Avoid. Education World.

Larkin (2012) You use! I use! We use! - Questioning the orthodoxy of 1:1 computing in Primary Schools. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 44(2).

Mangiatordi (2012) Inclusion of Mobility-Impaired Children in the One-to-One Computing Era: A Case Study. Mind, Brain and Education 6(1).

Martino (2010) One Laptop per Child and Uruguay's Plan Ceibal: Impact on special education. Thesis. University of Guelph (Canada).

Quillen (2010) Schools Open Doors to Students' Mobile Devices. Education Week.

Russell (2012) Bring-your-own technology and one-to-one initiatives in Missouri schools in 2012. Thesis.

Schaffhauser (2011) ABCs of BYOL. THE Journal.

Stites (2012) I say 1:1, you say ... Blog.

Twining et al (2005) Tablet PCs in schools: Case study report. Coventry: Becta.

Weston and Bain (2010) The End of Techno-Critique: The Naked Truth about 1:1 Laptop Initiatives and Educational Change. Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment 9(6).

Case studies

From the University of Tasmania

This is a series of six case studies looking at 1:1 laptop use in schools (classrooms) in Australia. Series title: Laptops Investigation - impact on schooling. Carried out in 2009 by Andrew Fluck. Names of schools have been changed. Posted here with permission from Andrew.

  1. Jumbuk State School (Queensland)
  2. Cadillac Fountains State School (Queensland)
  3. Oceanview Public School (New South Wales)
  4. River Fields Public School (New South Wales)
  5. Duxton Primary (Victoria)
  6. Arboreal Way Primary School (Victoria)

Other case studies

  • Copland Community School has started to introduce 1:1 computing by giving iPod Touches to all Year 7 (first year high school) students. This case study touches on the teething problems experienced.
  • Not a case study as such, but a short video (around 9 minutes) showing how mobile technologies such as iPads and Flip pocket camcorders are used in Moorside CTC: Heads' Blog: New Technology
  • Flitch Green Academy is interesting in that there is in effect 1:1 computing because pupils can borrow a laptop or tablet from class sets when they need to. Please see the entry in Mobile Loan.

Random notes

1:1 European Schoolnet website includes guidelines and downloads of reports including on Tablets.

video re ESSA's new 1:1 iPad strategy, which started in November 2012

Article exploring 3 schools' 1:1 computing initiatives

Funding: the Australian Government’s Digital Education Revolution has funded 1:1 computing for students in Years 9-12 in all schools (government, Catholic and independent). Objective achieved February 2012 – although different states have used the money in different ways.

Uruguay: national deployment in Plan Ceibal of 1:1 using OLPCs. See Flores & Hourcade (2009) and Martino (2010)

Fraser Speirs blog re their iPad project - focussed on teaching programming but talks about the impact of a 1:1 iPad programme (move away from using Macbooks and increase in use of ICT)

Alaskan One to One Computing Guide

Standley et al (2012) One to One Computing Guide: a guide to align policy with best practice in Alaska's one to one learning environments. (c) Educating4Leadership Creative Commons Non-profit, attribution.

The One Laptop per Child initiative

The One Laptop Per Child initiative (OLPC) was started in 2006, having been announced at the World Economic Forum in 2005 by Nicholas Negroponte. As Kraemer, Dedrick, and Sharma (2009) note:

"... the idea of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), [was for] a $100 PC that would transform education for the world’s disadvantaged schoolchildren by giving them the means to teach themselves and each other."

However, although the initiative has met with some success, not least the innovative design of the laptop itself (see the OLPC Vision video ), it has experienced difficulties, as summarised in the lessons the authors draw from their research:

  • Diffusing a new innovation requires understanding the local [socio-economic-political] environment.
  • Innovative technology can be disruptive and trigger a backlash from incumbents. (Some large companies saw the OLPC initiative as encroaching on their own potential future markets.)
  • Innovative information technologies do not stand alone. An infrastructure needs to be in place to handle marketing,deployment, and support, locally.
  • It is important to understand the true costs and risks, as well as benefits, of innovation. In short, it is arguable that the OLPC failed to take into account the true costs of ownership, which would include the costs of, for example, upgrades and maintenance.
  • Adopting organizations need to develop internal capabilities and set priorities. The authors note that while Governments may be able and willing to facilitate a trial, they may not be able to support a full roll-out with all the costs that that entails.

Negroponte (2012) carried out a "non-scientific" study in Ethiopia, from which he concluded that "children can learn a great deal by themselves" and that "access [to libraries of encyclopedias and textbooks] may be much less significant than building a world in which ideas are shaped, discovered, and reinvented in the name of learning by doing and discovery." But as Lister (2012) points out:

"You might assume that children can learn something from using tech devices, but it’s hard to isolate the results from other education and life influences."

An interesting blog post entitled One Computer Per Child questions the finances of a project in Honduras. The author has worked out that the cost per laptop appears to be nearer $400 than $100, but one of the comments suggests that the discrepancy is due to allowance for teacher training costs. If this is the case, the issue would seem to be one of transparency rather than anything else.

In an article entitled The failure of OLPC, Audrey Watters comments on media stories about low test scores by children taking part in the OLPC initiative. (See the article for several references.) She concludes that:

"... these scores reveal less about the global reach or potential of technology, and more about the dominant narratives of the U.S. education system: "what counts" as learning, and "what counts" in terms of ed-tech's role in delivering or enabling it -- why, standardized test scores, of course."

It is worth reading the comments section for a further discussion of the merits or otherwise of the OLPC initiative.

For an interesting article about the design of the OLPC's laptop, which was intended to encourage a social constructivist approach to learning, see What ever happened with One Laptop Per Child? .

A wiki set up by the OLPC Foundation disusses some of the criticisms levelled at the initiative and attempts to answer them. See Concerns and Criticsm.


Kraemer, Dedrick, and Sharma (2009) One Laptop Per Child: Vision vs Reality

Lister (2012) One Tablet Per Child boosts literacy

Negroponte (2012) EmTech Preview: Another Way to Think about Learning

From eLearning Digest No97:

One Laptop Per Child has released further details of its forthcoming XO-4 Touch, planned for release in Q1 2013. The device will be a notebook with a keyboard and a touch-sensitive 7” 1200x900 display. Inside will be a Marvell ARMADA 2128 processor, 8GB of storage, 2GB of memory, an accelerometer, wi-fi and HDMI, SD and USB slots. No word yet on pricing.
However, Michael Horn, writing in Forbes, reports on the Peruvian government’s five year initiative costing more than $200m to equip 800,000 of its public school students with low-cost laptops through the One Laptop per Child initiative. The purpose was to use digital technology to fight poverty by boosting student learning and yet the experiment is now widely assessed as having been a failure. Horn notes that simply throwing technology at education does little to improve it (e.g. the recent interactive whiteboard craze in our schools); transformations occur when technology, “…has been implemented in a new learning model”.

Within the UK the eLearning Foundation helps schools implement 1:1computing programmes. They have identified six models or options for providing 1:1 computing.

Scottish iPad Evaluation
Report on evaluation of iPads (1:1 Computing) in Scottish schools.