Nikolai Vitti, the superintendent of Detroit Public Schools Community District, is attempting to provide every K-8 student with a laptop to use during the school day. The district currently has a 1:1 laptop pilot program at 25 schools. Expanding the program to the additional 46 schools would cost $16 million in federal funds, according to Chalkbeat.
The 1:1 device initiative is designed to even the playing field for low-income students by giving them the same access to technology that is found in suburban schools. The students must leave the laptops at school.
Vitti says that the pilot program has been a success so far, with students becoming more engaged in learning. Students are using the laptops to extend their research into issues and contact experts through platforms like Google Hangouts.
The use of 1:1 technology in the classroom is becoming more mainstream. Both public and private schools throughout the country are either considering upgrading to 1:1 technology, or they have already taken that leap, and the prevalence of school-issued laptops is growing. In 2013 and 2014, schools purchased 23 million laptops, tablets and Chromebooks, according to an Education Week article.
Schools with 1:1 technology say that when students have their own devices, they are more engaged and learning is more personalized. The 1:1 environment shifts the model from instructor-led to student-focused, which makes it possible for students to go at their own pace. This way, teachers can view student’s work in progress through platforms like Google Drive. The devices encourage project-based learning, as opposed to listening to a teacher lecture.
Some studies indicate that school-provided laptops have a statistically significant impact on test scores in English language arts, writing, math and science. But some caution that 1:1 technology is often used for daily work, rather than to encourage creative expression. Why invest in expensive technology if the same tasks can be done on a piece of paper? Also, one study found that countries whose 15-year-olds use in-class computers the most had the lowest math and reading test scores.
When implementing this technology into schools, experts recommend that administrators give teachers ample time to become familiar with what options are available for integrating the devices into learning. Class websites should be set up, and often the actual classroom should be rearranged to give students the opportunity to work alone, in groups and with the teacher. Having a device in every student's hand gives teachers the option of flipping the classroom, which often involves watching a video at home as homework. Then, students can do the “homework” at school, where they can request help from the teacher or their peers.
As 1:1 technology continues to grow in classrooms, administrators, IT departments and teachers must stay on top of the fast-paced changes that occur in the field, while also continuing to monitor whether students have access and reliable internet service outside of school so they can complete the growing proportion of their assignments that are digitally based.