One-to-One Computing Tools for Life

##AUTHORSPLIT##<--->There are signs that the technological revolution in education is right around the corner. A small but growing number of schools around the country are discovering that real change in education must be built on one-to-one computing. This means continuous and personal technology access for every student, regardless of soci'economic background.


Student achievement cannot be built on the old-fashioned model of five computers in the back of the classroom or on the computer lab that students visit once a week. Sherilee Walker, former assistant superintendent of Federal Way Washington school district, put it very succinctly: “Until every student has their own computer, education will view technology as an ‘event,’ rather than something fully integrated into the fabric of the schools.”


One-to-one computing incorporates technology and the Internet into every aspect of the school day. But it d'es more than that. Properly implemented, it has the power to transform the learning process for all involved.


In the pioneering one-to-one computing schools, every student has a laptop that accompanies him or her throughout the school day and home in the evening, with an anytime-anywhere connection to the school network and the Internet. The results are proving to be dramatic. Student achievement is on the rise, attendance is up, and students who have dropped out are back in school. Teachers are becoming facilitators in the learning process. Parents are getting involved in their children’s education and going back to school themselves.


The Elements of One-to-One Computing

One-to-one computing is built on five basic elements. First, if each student is to have a computer, the computer must be portable, durable and wireless. This is not as expensive as it sounds, when the space, power, and wiring costs are factored into the total cost of ownership. The computers must go home every day to make the desired impact on student learning. Second, all computers must function as part of a large, “mission-critical” system to be effective. This broadly covers everything from a wireless LAN infrastructure to the systems software that manages a complex computing environment. Third, students, parents and teachers must receive thorough training, with technical and instructional support onsite to ensure a smooth transition. Experience has shown that training and support must be delivered over a yearlong period to be fully effective. Fourth, the system must be comprehensive; it must integrate an Internet-based curriculum into everyday studies with an emphasis on teacher-driven lessons and student-driven learning. Finally, the system must provide continuous broadband connectivity for every student and teacher, in order to foster the ad hoc use of the Internet and facilitate on-demand learning. Broadband connectivity also provides DSL-like speed to the desktop in support of the next generation of Internet applications.


Seeing Results

After only one year of implementing one-to-one computing, schools are seeing some dramatic results. For example, Rio Bravo Middle School in El Paso, Texas, one of the poorest cities in the U.S., reports that student scores on the Texas State Achievement Test improved from 83% to 95% in math, and from 87% to 92% in writing over the previous year. They also note an attendance increase to 97%. Redondo Union High School in Redondo Beach, California, reports that 83% of the freshmen passed the high school writing proficiency test, an increase of more than 30% over the previous year.


Carmen Arace, an inner-city middle school in Bloomfield, Connecticut, reports that student suspensions dropped from 432 to 85, with tardiness levels dropping almost to zero. Hancock High School, located in a rural area of Southern Mississippi on the Gulf Coast, reports that their school attendance improved by 40% in one year, with educators reporting much higher levels of student motivation.


Felton Laboratory School in Orangeburg, South Carolina, says that they have seen both students’ and teachers’ research skills improve since one-to-one computing was introduced, with 100% of both groups showing improvement on pre- and post-assessments of technology skills, plus an increase in student motivation, with parental involvement at an all-time high.


Finally, at Crossroads Middle School, an alternative school in Meridian, Idaho, students who had dropped out of school are now benefiting from one-to-one computing. Jim Core, a Crossroads teacher, noted, “Our at-risk students are motivated to attend class again, and they have overcome most of the fears about their basic educational skills that put them at risk. The improvement has been quick, significant and lasting.”


A New Role for Educators

Teachers using one-to-one computing find themselves more comfortable with technology. They report that one-to-one computing improves collaborative learning in the classroom, and facilitates individual, small group and whole class projects. They are better able to group students within the classroom according to abilities, as well as customize learning materials for each student. Using their own teacher laptops, educators have access to the laptops of every student in the class.


Delores Bolton, Principal at Carmen Arace, notes, “Teachers’ instructional methodologies have changed significantly as a result of the many hours of staff development, and they serve more as facilitators in the learning process. Our culture of learning has been redefined.”


According to Terry Randolph, School Superintendent at Hancock County School District in Kiln, Mississippi, “With the introduction of laptops for each student in grades 9-12, we have seen a tremendous difference in the way teachers are teaching. Through technology surveys, we have monitored teacher progress and found that in one year’s time, teachers are more prepared to make the transition from traditional instructional approaches to methods of discovery and interaction through the use of the Internet. In every subject area, teachers are using technology for more effective instructional strategies that allow students to discover knowledge and to develop their own personal learning and growth.”


Community of Learners

Because one-to-one computing allows every child to take his or her laptop home after school, the school day is extended into evenings and weekends. Parental involvement in their children’s education and communication between home and school are on the rise. And in many cases, parents are becoming engaged learners themselves thanks to their newfound access to technology.


According to Carmen Zamora, Principal of Rio Bravo Middle School in El Paso, “A world has opened up for our students and parents. It has helped bring students’ families into the brave new world of the 21st century. Home-school communication has increased dramatically, with 98% of our parents attending technology workshops so they can assist their children.”


And at Towns County Middle School in the mountains of North Georgia, one-to-one computing has reached beyond the classroom and into the community, with community enrollment in adult education classes increasing by 24% and G.E.D. completions by 71% after only one year.


The Future is One-to-One

According to Dr. Stephen H. Smith, Principal of Towns County Middle School, in Hiawassee, Georgia: “Computer skills cannot be adequately acquired in just one class period a day. Just as students have access to textbooks at home, they should also have access to computer technology at home. This is necessary not just for those going on to post-secondary education, but also for those who will enter directly into the work force, since today computers are found in retail stores, hotels, restaurants, health care facilities, and a variety of other workplaces.”


One-to-one computing prepares our children for the technology-driven workforce of the future. Every job in the future will be connected to some sort of technologically advanced system or device. With one-to-one computing systems in our schools, we are not only giving our children a tool to help them through school, we are giving them a tool to help them through life.



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This article originally appeared in the 05/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.