Expert Viewpoint

What's Next for 1:1 Devices: Strategies for Maximizing Purchases and Learning Outcomes

The use of 1:1 devices has become ubiquitous in classrooms, with 90% of district leaders reporting that every single secondary school student in their district has a school-issued device. This shift has brought a wide range of value to the classroom, including improvements in digital equity; increases in creativity, collaboration and choice; as well as better engagement, motivation, and agency for educators and students. As educators realize the benefits of this level of technology adoption, leaders are also navigating how to extend the lifetime value of these devices.

It’s an urgent challenge. Education has spent a total of $227 billion globally on technology. But some of those investments sit idle in schools. Among education apps alone, 65–85% of purchases are underutilized or entirely unused in the classroom. Devices and accessories are used more often but aren’t fully immune to the dilemma.

There are many potential reasons ed tech is underutilized, including lack of time or training, less comfort with technology and educators not having enough involvement in the selection. A new Logitech survey shows that on average, one in five K–12 leaders said seeking more teacher feedback prior to buying tools and better upfront training could increase the potential of ed tech to enhance learning in their districts or schools. Beyond the findings of the survey the big drivers for non-adoption come down to these pitfalls: not choosing ed tech with the right features; not having clear ways to extend the use of devices; and selecting tools that are overly complicated.

To extend the lifetime value of ed tech purchases, school leaders need new methods to evaluate tools and strategies for using technology after purchasing it.

What to Look For When Purchasing Ed Tech Devices

  • Durability: Kids will be kids. A lot can happen to a tool during the school day, making durability a major feature for successful ed tech. Devices can be jammed into a backpack, dropped on a desk, spilled on, or grabbed with dirty post-lunch fingers. Students can also be hard on accessories such as keyboards, picking or plucking at the keys. Ed tech tools have to have a high degree of demonstrated ruggedness to deal with the demands of student life.
  • Sanitation: Linked to durability is choosing ed tech that is easy to clean. Even in 1:1 environments, sanitation is important. As students collaborate, they use each other’s technology. No matter the situation, having devices that can be cleaned after being held by sticky fingers, covered in orange juice, or sneezed on will extend the life of the technology and support hygiene practices in schools.
  • Interoperability: The best tools are interoperable with a range of devices from primary manufacturers. The modern classroom needs a variety of hardware and software tools, but if one tech tool doesn’t work with the others, it can quickly end up on the shelf.
  • Battery Life: Technology-based interruptions to learning are a headache, so battery life is an important factor to consider. An uncharged device can derail a full class period. Finding ed tech that has a long battery life — and can be recharged quickly — can ensure the focus stays on learning instead of on technology.
  • Physical Comfort: School leaders should also keep in mind the importance of comfort when purchasing ed tech. Students are often at crucial periods of physical growth and development. If comfort is not considered, then learners might experience fatigue or pain or choose not to use tools. For example, research shows that 60% of children ages 10–17 report discomfort during laptop use. Selecting hardware accessories that factor in the unique ergonomic needs of growing learners will not only help students focus but could keep technology devices in use for longer.
  • Functionality: Finally, remember the importance of out-of-the-box functionality. Educators need products that “just work”: 71% of educators report taking time away from student instruction to troubleshoot tech. Tools that are intuitive and require little to no set up will help educators keep the focus on instruction and avoid the potential of tech-related burnout.

Classroom Strategies that Make the Most of 1:1 Devices

While ensuring ed tech meets the above criteria is essential when considering an investment, there is still work to be done to make certain that students can get the most out of these tools year-over-year. Finding creative ways to use 1:1 devices will extend the value of technology investments. Here are three strategies that can help ensure ed tech tools are used to their fullest.

1) Encourage meaningful expressions of knowledge: Educators can use ed tech tools to support students to demonstrate their learnings in creative and effective ways.

Tablets with built-in cameras or laptops and computers with webcams enable students to create videos of themselves, short films or plays, recorded presentations or recorded interviews with family members. This format can allow students to get creative and go beyond the typical written assignment.

Introducing sketch-noting can also add a level of creativity for students as they learn new information. Students pair a tablet with a stylus to mix handwriting, drawings, and shapes to capture what they are learning. This method can positively impact their note-taking and comprehension skills.

Students can use screen record features on devices to show their understanding of concepts or record themselves as they talk through the steps of a problem. Adding a stylus can take this activity to the next level as students are able to diagram a problem. Educators can use these recordings to offer feedback and interventions when a student gets stuck.

2) Support distraction-free environments: Students collaborating in groups and moving through activities often result in classrooms abuzz with counterproductive chatter. But it’s hard for adults to concentrate in a noisy room, much less kids. Sound has become a major — and overlooked — problem in classrooms. Pairing 1:1 devices with headsets can amplify a teacher's voice. The result is often increased focus and exceptional improvements to reading and language test scores among elementary school students.

3) Build community across the school: Schools with 1:1 tablets can use the built-in cameras or downloaded QR code readers in combination with printed QR codes to create hallway exhibits. QR codes that are linked to resources can be posted in hallways, around school or even around a classroom. Students can then use their tablets to scan the codes and interact with the resource. There are free resources like 360-degree videos, Google forms or quizzes that can deepen learning experiences and create fun activities for all levels of students.

School and district leaders can make the most of 1:1 devices by taking a straightforward approach to evaluating and selecting ed tech accessories, and then using the devices in creative and versatile ways that enhance the educational experience. In doing so, they will derive long-term value from their investments.