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EdTech Update




« Choosing the Right Device - May Educational Leadership Column | Main | BFTP: Dangerous statements librarians make »

I don't really want a 1:1 program

Tim Stahmer at Assorted Stuff writes:

Why do we want every student to have a connected device in the first place? If our primary goal is improving test scores, we can probably find better, less expensive solutions.

How should the curriculum and classroom practice change as a result of every kid carrying a powerful communications tool? If teachers continue to lecture, drill, and test based on a largely fact-based program, 1:1 would be a huge waste of money. Very similar to the way we’ve wasted a lot of funds on instructional computing over the past decade and a half.

For those not of the ready, fire, aim mentality, Tim's questions have to resonate.  Although I believe our district will eventually supply school-owned devices to all 6-12 students, I don't want to call it a 1:1 program.

Instead of being device-centric, our initiatives will be based on using our learning management system to provide differentiated instruction and ubiquitous access to resources to all students in all core classes 6-12.

Just  co-incidentally, all students will need a device to get access to these opportunities in order to insure equity.

This is not just semantics. This really is the “why” of adding student devices to the system. While I believe many, if not most, teachers will initially use the LMS at the substitution and augmentation levels, there will be those pioneers who move ahead rapidly - and there is a clear path for all teachers toward more powerful uses. 

Will student devices be use only to access the LMS? I certainly hope not. But LMS use will provide a launch pad that all students and teachers will use. 

Let's not call it a 1:1 program, unless the 1:1 stands for 1 unique learning experience to every 1 student.

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Reader Comments (11)

Phew, you had me worried there for a moment. The wisdom of this point of view (merely throwing technology at an instructional problem fixes nothing) is deep, and using this kind of language does get the conversation going. The problem with taking an extreme position (the quote from the article) to make a point is that there are real live taxpayers out there who heartily agree with that statement and would love to be able to quote an educator who agrees with their "spend nothing" world view. Yes, context is everything, but people will read what they want it to say.

Lacking a system-wide mandate to adopt tech-mediated instructional strategies such as the Common Core State Standards (seeing that a few states have that disadvantage), school districts are left with the need to be more clever than wrestling with chicken-and-egg arguments. That would include the strategy you allude to, that of equipping and supporting "the pioneers" robustly. Done well, with lots of public fanfare, instructional support, conditions, and training, "1:1" becomes understood to not be a simple device:student ratio, but an acknowledgement of fundamental equity in a school.

There is one bit of tech a smart school district should have in place, district-wide, before allowing the pioneers to fly: diagnostic progress monitoring and common assessment. Data is everything in school reform. School leaders should be helping faculty clearly understand who they are teaching, and what effect their teaching is having. Without some way to measure the impact of your pioneers using new pedagogy, you will not win converts. And we must do more than wait for generations of teachers to retire. They are bringing our new teachers along, and we need them all.

There is nothing like real data, real progress indicators, to convince teachers there is a better way. They are SICK of anecdotes of "the next great thing in education." Show them data, and you win. And, this is a complicated process to undertake. Enjoy.

May 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBill Storm

Great post - I am beginning to really wonder whether not having an LMS when students are introduced to their device of choice really does anything. Besides internet search, I can't immediately think of anything that gets replaced or augmented (let alone modified or redefined).
In the world I teach in getting a tablet or smartphone into each student's hands is simply a second device that they are either asked to use or end up leaving behind. My observations and experiences show me that having an LMS up and running first gives an automatic connection for the 1:1 device (even if the student has another device either at school or at home).

Oh yeah - and teacher training...

May 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKenn Gorman

So true. We seek to educate about the potential and power of personal digital learning devices. If the aim is to maximise closed knowledge tests then close off the kids from anything that supports openness, inquiry or authentic experiences. Even worse if the 1:1 is designed around "personalised testing" of the kind the personalises the closing off from reality. None so blind as those who do not want to look beyond.

May 19, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Turner

Thanks for the mention, Doug, and for the thoughtful comment on my post. Although you say your approach is not about semantics, sometimes changing the language can help people refocus on what is important. I hope you don't mind if I borrow your redefinition of 1:1. It makes far more sense considering what we're trying to do with technology than just passing out devices to kids.

May 19, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTim Stahmer

Thanks, Bill. As always your comments are provocative and spot on. My sense is that anti-tax people will figure out a way to distort any comment, and we as educators should not let that possibility keep us from speaking out. As a taxpayer myself, very much like good planning that includes some form of accountability metric that helps determine if money is well spent. Given the multiple variables that go into impacting student achievement as well as multiple definitions of student achievement, "real data" is a tricky beast.


HI Kenn,

We are looking at the LMS as the foundation on which every teacher can build. The last thing I want is for a parent to ask "What did you do with your device today in school?" and have a student answer "Nothing" or "Just read" or "Play Games."


Hi Tim,

Thanks for your original post that spurred my observations. I am very nervous, as you can probably tell, about our district moving to a 1:1 program with very careful plans for instructional use...



I am curious about your statement ""personalised testing" of the kind the personalises the closing off from reality." What's an example of that?



May 20, 2015 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Hey Doug...Long time. Hope life is good in your parts.

So, can you define "more powerful uses?" I struggle a bit with the idea that modern, Internet connected devices will be put into kids hands explicitly to differentiate the curriculum and provide access to a limited collection of resources, and that the LMS will ensure equity. If anything, devices should be transferring agency, autonomy, and freedom to kids, much in the same way those devices serve us as adult learners. I mean, I'm not dependent on an LMS for my next learning interaction. Why would we make that the focus for kids?

Hoping your "powerful" uses can enlighten me.



May 21, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterWill Richardson

Hi Will,

Good to hear from you as well. Congrats on the new book. I look forward to reading it.

You may not like this, but I see "more powerful uses" as a relative term, depending on the goals of the school, the level of current technology proficiency of the individual teacher, and resources available.

For the teacher who today is still in the lecture mode, doing a flipped classroom, real-time formative assessments, or even response tools in the classroom, I would describe as a "more powerful us." For the elementary teacher whose sole source of reading materials for her age (not ability) grouped children, having an LMS that provides reading materials at a variety of levels, to me qualifies as "a more powerful use."

I agree agency (hate the buzzwordish sound of that), autonomy and freedom are worthwhile goals and I applaud the visionaries who remind us where we need to head. But I'll take the small but universal steps toward those goals happily.

Hope this makes sense.

All the best,


May 21, 2015 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

This was a great post...Below is a link to my blog that had a similar post a couple months ago about 1 to 1. The initial title was 'Why 1-to-1 is a 4 letter (number) word to me'. We need devices in schools, not to use an LMS, but to learn, create, and collaborate as we are doing every day. It's also not just about 'learning to do it' so that students can use tech in their careers, but it allows Ss to differentiate in so many traditional ways, but also in time, path, place, and pace.
Anyway, I look forward to reading your future blogs.


May 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPete Leida

Thanks, Pete. Enjoyed your comments very much. Appreciate the link and hope Blue Skunk followers will access it.


May 22, 2015 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson


My 'personalised testing' reference was aimed at those who see externally directed testing being adaptable for each student, along the lines of 'personalised learning' which too often is a term for externally controlled content provision aligned to closed knowledge only. SuccessMaker was an example from the 90s. (I have kept my distance, preferring to work on trying to generate creative and constructive learning approaches) 'Personalised Assessment' through active feedback systems aligned to personal interests and potential would be something else. BTW, George Orwell would have a field day with the educational technology language we have to contend with.

Appreciate the thinking you bring to this.


May 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Turner

Thanks for the clarification. I too have heard the term "personalization" being misused by commercial education providers - at least by my definition. You wonder just how many people they hook in with such advertizing.

Take care,


May 23, 2015 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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