How to ensure a successful 1-to-1 deployment

It can empower students, solve for issues of equity, and enable personalized learning. But there's much more to a 1-to-1 deployment than buying laptops.
By: | September 17, 2019
Kevin Schwartz is the technology officer for learning and systems at Austin ISD.Kevin Schwartz is the technology officer for learning and systems at Austin ISD.

One-to-one. It’s a simple little phrase that carries a great deal of meaning. Depending on your context, you might feel inspired, terrified, validated, or bewildered.

It might seem overly simple, or incredibly complex to achieve a ratio of one computer to one student. It’s a crucial, game-changing arrangement that can empower students, solve for issues of equity, enable blended and personalized learning, and help prepare kids to take charge of their future. 

When it comes to implementation, the truth, as always, lies somewhere in between.

As I write this, I’m reflecting on my most recent 1-to-1 deployment—the 72nd such deployment at schools in Texas. Through a process of continuous improvement, we get better with every deployment, but it’s also a fact that every deployment has been different and has delivered its own unique memories.

Many times, the benefit is visible immediately. I’ve seen kids on their first day of school in the United States translate documents from English into the only language that they know. I’ve seen kids benefit from the organizational supports a computer provides to the extent that they no longer need some special education services.

Decision points

Seeing the difference this access and opportunity provide to kids of all abilities and socio-economic status compels me to continue to make this a reality with as many students as possible.

I’ve been asked many times for the “recipe” for a successful 1-to-1 initiative, and I have usually declined because of the inherent differences in deployments and because there is actually great value in the crafting of the plans within the organization.

Looking across this number of successful deployments, I see not a recipe, but a path and a series of decision points that, if successfully navigated, can greatly improve the likelihood of success.

That’s why I’ve agreed to host a workshop at FETC in January with the hope of showing that 1-to-1 learning initiatives are quite complex, but also readily attainable.

These are the top-level considerations which nearly every 1-to-1 holds in common:

  • Purpose – being very clear about the “Why?”
  • Measurements of Success
  • Technology/Curriculum/District Leadership Alignment
  • Your Leadership Role
  • School Board Messaging
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Initial Funding Sources
  • Device Selection
  • Alternate Devices
  • Digital Tools
  • Mobile Device Management
  • BYOD
  • Policies
  • Digital Content
  • Loss/Damage Mitigation
  • Opt-In/Opt-Out
  • Branding
  • Filtering
  • Campus Readiness
  • Teacher/Pedagogical Support
  • Repair Processes
  • Community Engagement
  • Deployment Day Logistics
  • Media “Frenemies”
  • Sustaining Funding

As mentioned, these are only the top-level considerations. There are many sub-levels and branches and each one can take you one step forward or two steps back.

Some can even “Whammy!” your whole initiative at the start (or years later) if not handled properly. Sound like a minefield? It is. But what if you had a map? And a guide?

Kevin Schwartz is the technology officer for learning and systems at Austin ISD. He will be a featured speaker at DA’s FETC 2020.


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