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Implementing a 1-to-1 Program

Posted on Oct 25, 2012

In 2010, when Amanda Allen and David Lopez introduced a 1-to-1 learning environment in their Los Angeles school, they experienced a power shift at Genevieve Elementary; students began teaching themselves. A 1-to-1 learning environment pairs each student with an online, portable, networked tool – in this particular case, the tool was an iPad.

The article, Using iPads With Mixed-Ability Students, details their journey. They divided their seventh and eighth grade classes into two groups, one group continued with traditional education while the other used iPads. After the first year of their pilot, there was an eleven percent increase in test scores with the students who learned using the iPads. So, what changed?

Allen and Lopez found that, “the most important way to use the iPad in the classroom is [with] choice. I didn’t necessarily care which app the students were using. I would tell the students the skill we were practicing, and they knew they had better be practicing that skill.”

This didn’t come without fear, though. Allen provides, “The biggest challenge was giving up some of the control and being OK with the fact that it might not go perfect the first time, but that we were going to figure it out.” When I first read this, I thought that a classroom without teacher control sounded like complete mayhem, but Allen and Lopez quickly supplied that an increase in student freedom actually increased the need for the teacher to monitor content. This, they believed, led to improved teaching methods and the improved scores.

Allen and Lopez provide us with a great in-classroom glimpse at how an iPad 1-to-1 program can change a school’s dynamic. If you’re looking for something that shows more of the big picture, check out the article, Launching an iPad 1-to-1 Program: A Primer. It covers everything from costs and risks, to the “Philosophical Framework” of a 1-to-1 program. It advises schools interested in introducing a 1-to-1 iPad program to consider six critical areas for successful implementation: leadership, cost, network function, security, philosophical frameworks, and pedagogy.

 “…the goal is not simply to deploy the technology, but to harness its power to change or improve the environment in which the technology was launched. Implementing technology for technology’s sake is sure to fail. It is our experience that schools must answer one important question: Why are we doing this?”

I won’t end this saying that you should proceed exactly like Allen and Lopez or that you should wholeheartedly follow the primer. No primer is going to be all encompassing, and no emulation of another school’s program will apply to your own school as well as you think. I picked these two articles because they complement each other well. Allen and Lopez weren’t afraid to experiment and leave the comfort zone of traditional education – and that paid off. The primer is here to keep us grounded in the reality of such a venture. When it comes to implementing an iPad 1-to-1 program, a combination of these two stances might be the most effective approach one can take, but ultimately, it depends on why you’re doing it.

Sidenote: Here are Lopez and Allen’s top nine resources for an iPad initiative: Popplet, iCardSort. Flashcards+, GoodReader, Volume Purchase ProgramEdmodo,, Good Notes, Mathaliens

Kyle Vineyard is a senior majoring in English at the University of Kansas. He has a passion for the written word and a soft spot for rural America.

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