One-to-One Computing


One-to-One computing, often referred to as a 1–1 Initiative, is the goal of most schools. Cutter (2006) stated in a perfect world, every student would have his or her own computer. Students could work whenever they wanted or needed, they could get together to learn collaboratively, and they could use computers as easily as they now use other learning tools, such as pencils or books. Obviously, most schools do not have One-to-One computing. Several states have undertaken this goal. Bryant (2006) writes that the benefits and success stories of a One-to-One learning initiative have been well published, but there has been little information published about the implementation strategies used by technical coordinators in these initiatives. Obvi- ously many things need to be in place, including a help resource as well as a net- work with access to the Internet.       

Key Questions Bryant (2006) Asked When Considering One-to-One  Computing

  • Is your connection to the Internet reliable?
  • Is there enough bandwidth to support all of your users?
  • Does your district have a way to monitor and manage bandwidth?
  • Are there enough access points to support the number of users?
  • Are there any academic areas without wireless coverage?
  • Do you have a way to monitor the laptops?
  • Do you have a means to install software on computers remotely?
  • Do student have access to all the resources available?
  • Can students change settings that should not be changed?
  • Do you have a system to check out laptops to users?
  • Do you have a comprehensive inventory record of all the laptops?
  • Can you easily look up what laptop each student has?
  • Is someone available to help users with problems?
  • How will the laptop repairs be managed?
  • Are there enough technicians?

One-to-One computing has to be carefully planned. Help; Internet access; personnel, professional and staff development; and software and appropriate hard- ware must be in place for the initiative to be successful. As computers become less expensive the One-to-One computing initiative in most schools will take place (see Chapter 1). An excellent resource for planning and developing One-to-One computing in a school or district can be found at:



In order to devise a workable plan for both student and teacher computer use, you need to begin with an understanding of how computers are distributed in your school. There is an ongoing debate among educators as to how computers can best be arranged to offer students the most equitable and effective access to technology. One school of thought values a distributed model that breaks apart the traditional com- puter labs and distributes the machines out among the classrooms. It stresses that in order for technology to be truly integrated into the learning process, it must be im- mediately accessible to learners. If computers are located in a lab, that may mean that students place their hands on the equipment only once a week and then in only an artificial, disconnected way. Having a scheduled computer time gives the impression that computers are some separate entity, a field trip on which students get to embark just once each week. This contrasts with the idea that the machines are viable learn- ing tools that can provide endless research and production possibilities each day.

Educators on the other side of the debate see advantages in placing all of the com- puters into one computer lab, generally located in an extra classroom or other free space at the school (see Figure 13.1). This layout was the common practice during the early years when computers were still gaining an accepted place in our schools.

FIGURE 13.1 | A school computer lab.

It still makes the most sense to many technology planners today. It is cost effective, in that it gives all students in all grade levels a chance to use the machines, and it means that the expensive ma- chines are used virtually all day. Each class typically schedules a weekly computer time when stu- dents can go to the lab together to work. If a school is fortunate, it may have a full- or part-time com- puter teacher to instruct with or about technology or to assist the classroom teacher with ideas and technical support.

Of course, lab advocates are quick to point out that a plan that involves sending all of the com- puters into the classrooms creates problems of its own. Although  a small group of students can work on a timely activity in the classroom, the whole class cannot learn the same thing at the same time (Huffman et al., 2003). Teachers may be forced to explain the same concept a number of times, as each group comes to the class computer. Not having computers in one location also may preclude a des- ignated technology teacher from presenting lessons. It instead might require the classroom teachers to assume the majority of technology instruction.

There are countless variations of computer distributions that fall somewhere in between these two extremes. Sometimes new computers are arranged together into labs so that all students have access to them, and the older computers are doled out to individual classrooms. Many schools are now experimenting with distributed computers in classrooms with the addition of “minilabs” of a small number of com- puters located in groupings around the school, possibly shared by two or three grade levels. Understanding the issues, and then considering which path your school has chosen to take and the thinking that went into making that choice, will help you plan for the smartest computer use possible for your class.


A great deal of thought must go into how you plan on utilizing your classroom com- puters, whether you have one or are fortunate enough to have several. The use of the computer in your classroom should reflect your personal style and educational philosophies just as the use of any other learning tools does. Your very attitude about the computer’s place in your instructional plan goes a long way in determining how your students will view its usefulness. If the computer sits in the corner under an inch of dust or if computer time is spent only playing games, students will naturally fail to see its potential importance in their learning. If, on the other hand, students see your enthusiasm for technology, if they see you using it as a tool to accomplish real goals despite your fear of learning something new, they will be drawn to learn and experiment with skills they must have to be successful in the future. For simplicity’s sake, these recommendations will be directed primarily to the multiple- computer classroom, but they can be easily modified to fit the technology available to you as well as to fit the particular needs of your students.

Room  Arrangement

How you arrange your classroom is an expression of the way you view the learning process, and how you integrate technical equipment into the physical space of your classroom is an extension of these beliefs. Instead of pushing your classroom com- puters into the nearest corner, thoughtfully consider how they will be used by you and your students (Anderson, 1996).

If you plan to have individuals or partners use computers while the rest of the class engages in other activities, you may want to put the computers off to one side of the room. Because what is seen on a computer monitor can be distracting to students work- ing elsewhere, resist pushing the computers up against the wall, and instead turn them so that the monitors face away from the majority of the class. Bookshelves or other furniture can also be moved to create a more private computer area, if desired. This, of course, makes it more difficult for you to view the computer screens to see how students are progressing, so be prepared to adjust your supervision habits.

If small groups will be using the computers, be sure there is enough room for sev- eral chairs to be pulled up and that there is easy access to other group work areas. If you plan to use the computer as one station in a series of learning centers to which students will be rotating, plan ahead for traffic patterns. Be sure students can easily get around the work area, even if others are sitting at the computer (Waddick, 1997). You might like to try using your classroom computer as a presentation aid for the whole class (see Chapter 14 for more information on producing and presenting with your classroom computer). In that case, you will want to be sure the computer is located so that it is easy to connect to a projection device or can be easily moved. As important as the learning purpose is to deciding how to arrange computers, what also must be considered is the reality of the physical situation of your class- room. Computers must be within reach of electrical outlets, for example. Care should be taken so that the glare from windows does not make seeing the screen impossible. The actual furniture on which the computer is placed should also be given some thought. Some schools purchase specially designed computer furniture. Others have gone as far as to ingeniously build the computer monitor right into the desk itself, allowing students to see it through a sturdy, waterproof glass top, but leaving a flat work space across which students can easily see and be seen (Bozzone, 1997). If your school has not acquired any special furniture, you may be forced to creatively craft a computer workstation by pushing together existing desks and tables. Take the time  students’ ages or capabilities, they can be taught to handle many common opera- tional and maintenance procedures, such as loading a new CD-ROM or replacing paper into the printer. When technical or other problems arise, think aloud to stu- dents as you consider your options, and demonstrate how you would solve them, thus providing a real problem-solving model. The more independently students can operate classroom computers, the more confident they will be in using them.

Scheduling Computer Use

Students should be made aware of the expectations you have for their computer use, just as they are aware of expectations for other academic and behavioral habits. Make it clear when it is appropriate to go to the computer and when they should focus on other work. This will prevent congregation around a computer every time a new sound is heard or when your students enter the room at the beginning of the period. Whether you have six or thirty computers in your classroom, you can design effi- cient use strategies by scheduling time for students to work on the computers. Your to make this workstation as ergonomically appropriate for your students as possi- ble, such as by raising or lowering the table legs. These preparations will make for a more functional technology classroom (see Figures 13.2, 13.3, 13.4, and 13.5).

FIGURE 13.2      General classroom setting with one computer and interactive whiteboard and screen.

Technical Procedures

When computers are distributed into classrooms, teachers must assume much of the responsibility for the day-to-day technical operation of the equipment. There may be a school or district technology specialist available, but you will want to be familiar with enough of the basic troubleshooting strategies to prevent long inter- ruptions of student productivity. You will want to take time to study how the wires are connected to the computer and to other peripherals, such as a monitor and a printer. Organize software on the desktop with icons so that students will be able to quickly and easily find applications they need without disturbing other directories or programs.

Model appropriate care and use of the machine and software to prevent some potential problems. Dust the computer and the monitor weekly, for example. Keep floppy disks away from magnetic devices and excess heat or cold. Depending  on  students will need time to use the computers in two different ways. It is first essential to provide time for students to explore and learn how to use computer hardware and software. This may be an informal discovery time or may be structured so that stu- dents work with one particular skill or program. Students also must have time to use what they have learned for productive purposes. These personal work times should allow students to use technology to work on class assignments or to pursue individ- ual projects, but should be organized around an ultimate goal of a finished product.

FIGURE 13.3 | One-to-One computing classroom with digital camera, wireless projector, wireless computers, interactive whiteboard/HDTV screen(s), printers, and  multimedia  equipment.

A number of different strategies can be used to introduce new computer skills. To demonstrate some basic operational skills, such as manipulating text in a word proces- sor or saving files to the school network, you may choose to show the entire class at once using a projection device. If you have received new software, you might decide to show it to a couple of students, and let them teach the next couple of students, and so on. You can also write some simple, developmentally appropriate directions and let students discover how to use a graphics program on their own using the directions as a guide. With any method, students must be allowed time to practice these ideas be- fore they are required to use them for real purposes. Once students are confident with the basics, they can apply what they know to achieving other academic goals.

FIGURE 13.4      One-to-One  computing  classroom  with  digital  camera; wireless projector; wireless computers; interactive whiteboard/HDTV screen(s); printers; photo printer; webcasting; digital storytelling and video podcasting hardware and software; and complete availability of multimedia equipment for video, graphics, sound, etc.

A sign-up sheet for computer time is one way teachers organize student computer use. Unfortunately, if students can sign up for time only when they have finished their other work, only a select few students will ever get regular computer experi- ence. Creating a set weekly schedule for computer use can help to ensure equity in opportunities for students in a high student–computer ratio classroom. Look at all of the available time when your students are in the room, and divide this time into workable blocks of perhaps 30 minutes each. Slot in students’ names so that each student has time for both practicing new skills and authentic technology use, ideally scheduled in two separate work times to give them the best chance for quality learn- ing. Schedule students for times during the day when they can work on the com- puters without missing instruction that they need. Depending on your students’ experience levels and specific needs, having them work in pairs could be more ben- eficial than working by themselves. Post the schedule so that students know when their weekly times are and when there are open slots (see Figure 13.6). This allows them to plan when they will be working on the computers and also shows open times that are available for spontaneous technology use. Students must feel that they have opportunity to word process a story or create graphics when they need to without necessarily having to wait for their slot once or twice a week. The posted schedule also encourages student monitoring of computer use. When a student’s computer time is over, he or she can alert the next person on the list, relieving you to work with students in other capacities.

FIGURE 13.5       A classroom   computer workstation.


Successful facilitation of a technology-rich classroom requires the coordination of help from a number of sources. Parent volunteers with computer experience can pro- vide needed technical support, and those who are computer novices can encourage and supervise as they learn along with the students. Older students who are able to donate time can teach younger students the finer points of a new piece of software or can help with some of the manual work that sometimes slows down little hands, such as typing text into a word processor. Peers can also serve as teachers to one an- other, sharing special skills or teaming to work out a problem. They often can fill in where teachers may lack the technical expertise.

Make your students aware of their options for assistance so that they learn not to depend on you alone. This is a difficult lesson, especially considering the in- herent technical problems that come with regular use of computers. A simple pa- per jam in the printer or a malfunctioning CD-ROM can bring to a standstill the immediate continued use of the computer. Students’ first reaction is to think that you alone will be able to remedy the situation, and, indeed, many teachers new to using technology fall into the trap of running to solve every technical glitch that springs up. If this habit continues, being the sole technical problem solver will mo- nopolize your time. An independent, problem-solving atmosphere established in your classroom will help students to troubleshoot technical problems themselves (see Figure 13.6).

FIGURE 13.6       Weekly  schedule  of  classroom  computer use.


As talented at scheduling the use of limited computers as a teacher may be, there remain considerable limitations to having only a few machines. This is an excel- lent time when teamwork among your colleagues can be invaluable to your stu- dents. One easy way to make the most of the computers in classrooms is to work out a schedule with other teachers so that your students can go to use the com- puters when their students are not using them and vice versa. When schools have such a low ratio of computers to students, the time computer keys are sitting idle should be minimized.