The Rise of One to One

According to the Apple Computers, “Today’s generation of students look at technology as part of their everyday environment.  To fully meet their needs, technology should be pervasive, always available.” Through 1 to 1 computer learning, this idea of ubiquitous access to technology has become a reality. As early as 2003, a survey from the market research firm Quality Education Data found that 4% of respondents said their districts were planning any kind of 1 to 1 computer programs during the 2003-2004 school year. These numbers are are on the rise. According to Jeanne Hayes, a researcher on 1 to 1 computing, more than 23% of the 2,500 U.S. school systems surveted are said to be implementing 1 to 1 computing programs in at least one grade.  Hayes also found that 48% of school districts’ chief technology officers said they were likely to purchase a computing device for each student by the end of this year.

There are several factors that are persuading districts to implement 1 to 1 computing programs in their schools.  Among them is growing body of research showing that districts and states implementing 1 to 1 programs report higher attendance rates, fewer discipline problems and improved writing skills. A second factor is that state and local educators are looking for ways to better engage students in learning and make their school experience more relevant to the 21st century.  In addition,  1 to 1 computing is expanding choices available to schools and students in how they approach teaching and learning through a range of newly emerging blended learning models.

While the data looks promising,  as with any new concept or idea more research is needed.  Some people caution that states and school districts are moving too fast in implementing such programs.  School districts in places such as New Mexico and Kansas have found that laptops are not being used to provide technology based learning for everyday use, but more for special projects.  Districts also consider costs as a common barrier stating that giving students 24-7 access to their own laptop or computer is not yet financially viable. Even further, critics of 1 to 1 computer learning are justified in stating ‘One to one computing isn’t a “C” for every student, it’s getting the right resources into the hands of students when they need it’.  After all, as teachers we want to provide students with the tools they need to be successful in school and in life in the 21st century. That being said, the following guide provides suggestions, recommendations and resources for reaping the benefits of one to one learning.

Mobile Computing and the Curriculum

The fastest growing occupations in the United States will be those which are managerial, administrative and technical in nature.  The highest paying jobs will demand a work force of well-educated individuals with strong technological skills.  There will be few opportunities for the individual with little or no technological training.  Therefore, students, teachers, administrators and staff will need to rethink their traditional roles to effectively use state of the art technology. A school that focuses on one-to-one computing will need to address these new relationships between the teacher and the curriculum as well as the role of technology within their curriculum, and will have an overarching vision and solid technology plan for how technology will assist schools in reaching their curricular goals and objectives.

Before implementing a one to one program, a school’s vision should address the ability of one-to-one to promote student achievement through technology-based classroom instruction and to provide the necessary resources to accomplish this at every school grade level. Teachers will need to rethink their roles in the classroom as immediate access to information and resources allows students to and resources allows to the ability construct their own knowledge. Two recommended models for effective technology integration are the enGague and NTeQ.  Both models support constructivist learning environments that promote higher order thinking skills and problems solving. These models require teachers to shift their roles from “directors” to “facilitators” and stress the importance of student centered learning and technology as tool to support this learn rather than an object of study in itself. In addition, with student 24/7 access to instruction, teachers will need to look for ways to extend lessons beyond the school’s walls.

Last but not least, it is highly recommended that your school familiarize itself with the ISTE educational technology standards for administrator, teachers, and students.  These standards provide guidelines and performance indicators, as well as outline the roles and responsibilities for technology stakeholders. Also, goals and objectives specific to your laptop technology and training needs should be outlined and embedded into your curriculum. A sample has been provided in Table 1. These technology models and standards will help to create clear goals, objectives and to develop one to one teaching strategies for that will be essential for technology integration. They assist in the development of a solid technology plan, a plan will be essential for securing eRate discounts and other federal funding which will be addressed later in this brief.

Professional Development and 1 to 1

A commitment to integrating technology in education, especially in the form of a 1 to 1 computing program, is also a long term and serious commitment to professional development. “Simply making technological tools available and offering training rarely improves or increases technology integration” (Penuel, 2006).  According to a study on the impact of technology on student achievement by Statham and Torrel, professional development was found to be a necessary component to technology integration and the training of teachers is a key to success.

Traditionally, schools have limited professional development to one shot training programs and assumed that this would be sufficient for the successful technology integration. However, studies have suggested that while this traditional approach to professional development has positively impacted teacher perceptions and attitudes towards technology in the classroom, additional professional development models are needed.

In an effort to address the ineffective and often expensive traditional training approaches to professional development, many schools have began looking toward situated, on-site professional development models such as technology mentoring and study groups to address the teacher’s specific technology needs, when they need it. Studies have indicated that these informal and site based models of professional development have resulted in increased teacher confidence, individualized support, higher teacher usage, independent practice, and a potentially inexpensive alternative to formal training methods.

In addition to considering non-traditional forms of professional development, findings from an extensive, federally funded SRI International report on technology related professional development concluded that  it is important that technology professional development be directly connected to the schools curriculum, offer additional support of those new to technology, assign building technology leaders, and offer incentives such as additional release time or recertification credits. Finally, and most importantly, the Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow 10-year longitudinal study recommends that at least 30 percent of available technology resources, i.e. budget, be set aside for long term and continuous professional development and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, the “No Child Left Behind Act of 2001,” Public Law 107-110) requires schools to dedicate 25% of the technology budget to professional development.

Purchasing  One to One

Based on the typical school’s PC infrastructure, a windows based system would likely be the best fit for most schools, though Macs are becoming an increasingly popular choice. Dell provides affordable one to one solutions with educational discounts for schools and the Dell  laptop is a suitable choice. Monthly payment plans are offered on an individual basis which suit many of the families that receive tuition assistance. The specs are sufficient enough to allow the students to have the latest technology edge for the next three years at a price of $1,177.38 which includes three years of on site repair and three years of accidental damage insurance.  .  If parents desire to purchase from a different company is it suggested that they purchase a system with a minimum three-year service warranty, the lifespan of a typical laptop.

To help offset the high initial cost of hardware and network purchases and relieve a school’s limited budget, it is strongly  recommend that open source and web-based software be considered as an alternative to costly programs such as Microsoft Office.  Open source software such as Open Office are  suitable alternatives to productivity suites such as Microsoft Office and all updates for this software are free, fully distributable and require no licenses. Moodle course management software is also a free alternative to Blackboard and is highly recommended for managing your transition to a digital curriculum. These and many others can be found at which is a veritable warehouse of free, downloadable software with and extensive collection of educational software resources.

The switch to one to one computers will also require additional network infrastructure to provide network access to student laptops. Intel’s “Blueprint Solutions suggests planning for additional physical space, performing routine stress tests to check support of network users and testing of wireless signals to verify network availability.  Additional hardware such as servers, routers and access points will need to be purchased, but volume educational discounters such as the Regional Educational Media Center (REMC) provide discounts on most network hardware as well as vendors for network services.

Finally, it is highly recommend that a small storeroom of additional hardware and accessories be kept on hand  in the event of unforeseen emergencies like a computer not being able to be fixed for several days.  In the event of something like that, the school has the ability to cut learning down time a minimum and small rental fee for checking out a temporary replacement laptops can help offset the cost of purchasing additional supplies.

Funding One to One

There is no questions that one to one programs are a big financial commitment. States such as Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire are embarking on 1 to 1 computing programs to enhance technology learning in their schools.  These states have found various ways of funding these programs through grants, fundraisers, community partnerships and commitments by parents and students.

The largest expense, of course will be that of the initial hardware. Most major companies such as Apple, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard are creating ways in which to promote 1 to 1 computing at cost effective prices and educational discounts.  Such programs are: The One to One Institute, a nonprofit organization founded by Hewlett-Packard, Computing in a Box by Hewlett-Packard, the Ultra-Mobile PC by Microsoft and Apple Education.  Along with these major computer corporations, hybrid style computing devices have been developed to help schools design, implement, and launch successful 1 to 1 computing programs in school districts.

The parents and staff of the school should consider additional  fund raisers to support the school to offset the extra funds needed for the expensive start-up costs. One effective school fund raising model for private schools is a school wide auction, such as the one implemented at Kalamazoo Country Day School which is supported by item donations from families and businesses throughout the community. It raises nearly $20,000 every years and a large percentage of the funding supports technology in the schools.

Also, programs such as School Merchandise, Magazines, Book Fairs, and Community “Peel it” Discount cards. School shirts/sweatshirts/clothing can offer fantastic additional income, particularly for a new school. There are also community programs such as Meijer Community Rewards and General Mills -Box Tops for Education program that can provide additional revenue to support the program. Since your school is non-public institute, private donations can be welcomed, and are quite common for parochial schools. As a last resort your school may need to consider a tuition hike to ensure proper funding both in the short and long term.

Total Cost of Ownership

The total cost of ownership of a one to one project can help in planning and budgeting over the course of the three year cycle.  Although the initial start up cost may be high, as these costs are spread out over time, the investment begins to look like a more realistic expense.  To help project the total cost of ownership for your three year plan, three recent TCO case studies from the Consortium of School Networks were used to project the cost of a one to one program based on 22 students per grade level in grades 6-8 totaling 66 students over the course of three years. The bottom line is that over the course of a three year period, the total projected cost based on these three case studies is approximately $174.777  per student/year (see table). It should be noted that this figure is only an estimate based on three individual case studies and should be use only as a very rough indicator of the total cost of ownership.

4 Year Cycle District A District B District C Avg Cost/Year
Per Pupil Cost Per Pupil
Hardware $436.00 $177.00 $271.00 $294.67
Software $33.00 $20.00 $64.00 $166.83
Direct Labor $279.00 $181.00 $186.00 $127.17
External Apps Providers $32.00 $7.00 $20.00 $117.50
Total $780.00 $385.00 $541.00 $706.17


One to one is a serious and long term commitment.  It is not only a commitment in terms of financial resources, it is a commitment to pedagogical change,  a commitment to professional development and a commitment to ensure long term funding. These outlined strategies and recommendations provide an rough picture of what this commitment entails as well as a starting point for taking the next steps. Below is a compendium of related readings and resources to further investigate a one to one program.

One to One Publications

Intel. (2005). Blueprint solutions for k-12 one to one computing initiatives. Retrieved from

Intel. (2005). Toward a one to one world. Retrieved from

National Center for Education Statistics – Technology in Schools

One to one computing in Michigan: a State Profile. (2004). The Metiri Group. Retrieved from

The Technology Coach Handbook

Researching One to One

Aldeman, N. et. al. (2002). The integrated studies of educational technology: Professional development and teachers use of technology. SRI International

Gora, K. (2003). Teacher to teacher mentoring. ISTE Learning and Leading with Technology. 31(4). pp. 36-41

Nudel, H. (2004). Time to experiment. ISTE Learning and Leading with Technology. 32(4). pp 50-55.

Penuel, W. (2006). Implementations and effects of one to one computing initiatives: A research synthesis. Journal of Research on Technology in Education. 38(3).

Sugar, W. (2005). Instructional technologist as coach. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education. 13(4). pp. 547-571.

Warshauer, M. (2004). Going 1 to 1. Association for Supervision and Curriculum.

One to one in the News

1 to 1 Computing on the Rise in Schools, May 2006,

‘Laptopical’ Provides Fuel for the Classroom Laptop Revolution, March 2005,

One to One Computing for Under $100 Per Student, November 2006,

Gates:  Cell Phones, not Laptops, Will Best Answer Poor Students’ Needs, March 2006,

Michigan Laptop Program Shows Early Success, July 2005,

Purchasing One to One

Regional Education Media Center

Classroom Total Cost of Ownership


Department of Educaition

Regional Education Media Center




Funding One to One

U.S. Department of Education

CoSN/Gartner TCO Tool and Case Studies


Governent Grants


Best Buy

Dollar General

Walmart Foundation

Open Source Software

Open Office

Moodle Course Management Software