Essential Strategies For 1-to-1 Success: Finding Your 'Why'

The past two decades have seen 1-to-1 computing grow in popularity, with school districts across the country deploying millions of laptops and tablets to students, excited by their potential to enhance learning. But unfortunately, with the trend came the reality that many school systems didn’t adequately plan, prepare for or sustain their 1-to-1 initiatives, and failed to see positive impacts as a result. Why do some 1-to-1 initiatives succeed and others fail?

This web seminar outlined some essential strategies for a successful 1-to-1 initiative. Two technology administrators from Nixa Public Schools in Missouri discussed their innovative Connected Initiative, a carefully planned four-stage program establishing a 1-to-1 environment in the district. Through focused strategic planning, professional development focused on future-ready instruction strategies, community engagement and an overall emphasis on answering the “Why?” behind the program, Nixa’s 1-to-1 program is succeeding in ways that many such initiatives have failed.  

David Liss, CETL

Executive Director of Technology/CSIP

Nixa Public Schools (Mo.)

Josh Chastain, Ed.D.

Executive Director of Digital and Professional Learning

Federal Programs

Nixa Public Schools

Josh Chastain: Nixa is a school in southwest Missouri. Our per-pupil expenditure is below the state average. We pride ourselves on our ability to spread our money as much as possible to support our students, knowing that our funding isn’t always exactly the way we want it to be.

David Liss: When we started looking at this, we asked ourselves, why even go to 1-to-1? Technology integration can increase student engagement. It doesn’t increase the achievement, but it ends up increasing achievement through student engagement. We had to ask ourselves, what would devices do for us? Where is the data that shows that technology integration is going to help with our student achievement? But that wasn’t the question we should have been asking, because student achievement ended up not being the focus.

Our strategic plan is the DNA of our district. It is what we use to distribute our resources, to decide how we’re going to spend money, and to choose what direction we’re going to go. So if 1-to-1 was going to happen, it needed to get into our strategic plan.

Josh Chastain: This initiative became the main focus from our district. We were able to come up with a plan that would be supportive of our initiative, which we call the “Connected Initiative.” That four-year plan started with “attain” in our first year, then “accept,” then “adapt,” then “achieve.”

We did not acquire the devices until year two. In year one, our whole goal was to discuss and provide professional learning for our staff, and we focused only on instruction strategies that were important in the classroom that weren’t necessarily solely focused on technology. We determined that if we focus on the high-level concepts of teaching and learning, then device usage as a tool would be supported by those instructional strategies. That allowed our staff to understand that our focus was not about a device, but how they could be successful in the classrooms.

David Liss: How could we afford to do it? That is one of the things that most districts struggle with. The way that it went for Nixa was a lease purchase. We were in a position to do a bond issue for some other things, and we decided to tag onto that. That bond issue passed with over 70 percent, which shows tremendous community support.

That gets into the stakeholder input. We had over 40 members on a committee for device selection—parents, students, special education, elementary, secondary, administration. We were ready to potentially do four different types of devices for different grade levels. We knew touch was important. We knew keyboarding was important. We knew all of these different things. The miraculous thing is that we ended up finding devices that fit all of those requirements or desires. We were looking for a device that fit our classroom and our instruction changes, rather than buying a device and then trying to figure out what we could do with it.

We ended up choosing the Acer 738T, also called the R11. It’s a flip device—a Chromebook. We were blown away that this committee voted unanimously for a flip-back touch device that fit all grade levels, kindergarten through 12th grade.

Josh Chastain: In preparing for the deployment of 6,700 devices to all of our staff and students, we created help desks within our junior high and high school. We also did some staff changes; where we did have some computer teachers and other support staff, we were able to change that to having instructional technology coaches in all of our buildings. That preparation allowed us to make sure we were ready for deployment at the beginning of our school year in 2016.

David Liss: We’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about a reflection. What I mean by that is the ability to evaluate where you are and what you’ve done to make sure that what you’re doing is hitting your “why.” We were concerned that we would have some teachers who would not want to change the way they’re doing things. But we didn’t. We framed the change not as what we wanted to do as teachers, but rather as what was best for the kids and getting them the life skills that they need to be not only employable but also to be one of the go-to people in their marketplace.

And where are we going now?

Josh Chastain: Well, upward and onward. Year four is next year, and that’s our “achieve” year. It’s not necessarily to say that we’re looking at data that says the devices have been what created success in the classrooms, but that that tool is supportive of great instructional practices, which is, in turn, a part of student achievement. Also, we’re recognizing that our devices are the teaching tool of our time, and with those we are creating future-ready life skills for our students.

Our goal is also that all of our staff recognize when, where, how and why a device is used in a classroom, and when it is best for the instruction that they’re doing; not that it is the only instruction. It is the teaching tool, but it is not the only teaching tool.

David Liss: I enjoy seeing when technology is not used, just as much as when it’s being used, because then it shows me this whole thing about appropriate technology integration. I use the analogy, “You wouldn’t use a screwdriver on a nail, and you wouldn’t use a hammer on a screw.” You use the right tool for the right thing that you’re doing at the time, and not everything needs technology integration.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please visit:

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